Emily Fiso of Mt Rainier puts up a shot against Moses Lake's Kaitlyn Stevens.
SLIDESHOW: McPhees, Rams clear obstacle to title game
By Gerardo Bolong
TACOMA - The character and determination of the supreme athlete shows itself in times of great turmoil.
With her Mount Rainier girls team on the verge of being knocked out in the face of 51-41 deficit with 5:28 left in regulation, Stanford commit Brittany McPhee overcame three quarters of mighty struggling to answer the bell one more time, refusing to lose by taking responsibility on her shoulders one more time in what could possibly have been her most memorable performance with her final chance at a state championship on the line.
Capping a furious Ram rally against all odds, Stanford commit Brittany McPhee rose high inside the foul line to pop through an 8-foot jumper with 15.3 seconds remaining in regulation to give Mt. Rainier a 56-55 lead against Moses Lake. This eventually became the winning basket of the Class 4A girls basketball semifinal game at the 2014 Hardwood Classic state girls basketball tournament inside the Tacoma Dome on Fri., March 7.
Moses Lake brought the ball up court and called time out with 5.7 seconds remaining and inbounded from the side. Sophomore Jessie Loera, who closed with 23 Chief points, ran off a screen to get clear on the left side in time to get off an off balance, running right hander from 10-feet with two seconds on the scoreboard clock. The shot bounced off the right side of the rim and into Emily Olson's hands. Olson's shot before the buzzer missed and the trip to the championship game was assured for Mt. Rainier.
To fully appreciate the efforts in this final quarter, it is worth digressing back to the 51-41 score after McPhee had been vigorously triple teamed and struggling for three quarters.
"There was definitely lots of emotion going," said Jordan McPhee who ended up with 12 points eight rebounds, seven assists and two blocked shots.
Loera of the Lake came out of an action packed scramble with blood streaming from her nose and was out for more than one minute getting treatment.
While she was getting treatment, Mt. Rainier scrambled back behind Brittany McPhee who scored two buckets sandwiched around an Emily Fiso basket to bring the Rams within 51-47 with 3:48 left.Brittany McPhee came through again with a basket off an inbounds play to make the score 51-49 at the 3:25 mark. Loera hit a bucket for the Chiefs before Brittany McPhee torched a 3-point missile to get the rams within 53-52 at 1:46.
McKenna Walker scored two of her game total of 24 points on a pair of charity tosses to stretch the Moses lake lead back to three points. Brittany McPhee attacked the hoop for a basket that made the score 55-54 with 1:11 left.
The Chiefs then forced the final of McPhee's 11 turnovers when the basketball bounced off her foot underneath the Ram basket with 37.6 seconds left to play.
Following a Moses Lake turnover, the Rams' Kaiti Freeberg was fouled two seconds later. Freeberg missed the the front end of a penalty free throw situation off the back rim as Brittany McPhee kept the possession for Mt. Rainier.
At this point, a blooded jersey made its memorable appearance and almost took McPhee out of the game.
On a dead ball, an official detected blood on her jersey and signaled for her to go off with 17.9 seconds showing on the clock. Unable to clean the jersey to the official's satisfaction, McPhee could only stay on the court by putting on a new jersey, which fortunately for Mt. Rainier was available.
Head Ram coach Bob Bolam called two timeouts to ensure that McPhee could remove jersey No. 12 and replace it in time to get into the next possession.
"Our trainer had gotten the blood all off, and then they were like, 'Oh, no, there's still some more right here,' but there wasn't," she recalled. "I just like, Whatever, I'm going to change the jersey then they can't find any.' I just went around the corner.
"It kind of made me mad. I was seriously, You're going to make me change my number?' I was like,'Let's get this over with,' In the timeout, I said (losing in the semifinals) isn't happening again."
McPhee rushed of the court and into a back area where she could change into a new jersey - No. 44- which was the number of Los Angeles Laker legend Jerry West among others.
The ball was delivered to McPhee in the lane for the turn around shot that won the game and finished her scoring with 26 points on 11 of 27 shooting with 12 rebounds, an amazing eight blocked shots, and two assists to her credit.
Early action had Mt. Rainier overcoming a 6-0 deficit. Destroying the Chief running game with one of their own, the Rams used deadly defense to help their transition game get into gear to the tune of a 16-0 run that went no further after Walker notched a quarter ending 3-point basket to make score 16-9.
In the second quarter, Moses Lake (21-5) trailed 24-17 before using blistering speed and 3-pointers combined with marvelous ball movement en route to a 28-24 edge that Aqeelah Williams cut to 29-24 on four points before halftime.
"Profs to Aqeelah for keeping us close," added McPhee.
Williams earned 14 points with a trio of baskets from beyond the arc along with five rebounds.
Momentum moved to Moses Lake with an 11-2 as the Rams remained in recession, particularly on the offensive end.
After Jordan McPhee converted two free throws, the Chiefs fired up the war paint to gain a 45-32 lead.
Refusing to fold up the tent, Mt. Rainier rallied behind Brittany McPhee who scored on a free throw and basket ahead of Kaiti Freeberg's driving lay up and on an inbounds pass that set up a basket to keep the Rams within 45-39 heading into the fourth quarter
With Mt. Rainier shots regularly going wayward, Moses Lake filled itself up offensively to pull into the 51-41 lead that precede the final comeback of Mt. Rainier.
"They out scrapped us and we gave up too many second shots," said Bolam. "...they had our number going for awhile. It didn't look very good. Somehow, we managed to come back."
Finally reaching the state championship game brought out strong feelings from Brittany McPhee. "It's all the emotions building up," she explained. "There's nothing like it. If I'm going to go down, I'm going down fighting."
After the final interviews, McPhee's teammates were waiting just outside the hallway to the locker rooms to mob her with appreciation.
Emily Fiso scored two points with six rebounds while Kaiti Freeberg had two points and a blocked shot.
The Rams (25-3) moved into the title match against Gonzaga Prep (25-3) on March 8.
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