Lauren Wier of Gonzaga Prep gets surrounded by Mt Rainier players.
SLIDESHOW: Mt. Rainier falls in title match up
By Gerardo Bolong
TACOMA - Brittany McPhee and her West Central
District/Southwest Bi-District champion Mt. Rainier
teammates battled bravely before falling to a
huge comeback by Greater Spokane League's Gonzaga Prep, 53-51, in the championship game of the 2014 WIAA Dairy Farmers of Washington/Les Schwab Tires 4A girls basketball Hardwood Classic state championship on Sat., March 8 at the Tacoma Dome.
"We didn't move the ball around well against the zone and missed some easy shots," said MR head coach Bob Bolam of the school's first ever state championship game.
Completely dominating the encounter for nearly
three and one half quarters, the Rams hit hard times.
The Bullpups (25-1) from Spokane activated a never
used, extended 2-3 zone following Emily Fiso's inside
basket with 4:34 remaining in the third quarter. Mt. Rainier faltered from the field as Gonzaga changed the script of the game's momentum.
Ram turnovers plus hesitation that produced poor
shooting against the zone enabled the Bullpups to trim their disadvantage to 43-39 as 1:43 showed on the clock.
Other than Brittany McPhee, the Mt. Rainier squad stopped attacking the basket and shot poorly from the field.
"Nobody else wanted to finish," said McPhee, who made only one of five field goal tries down the stretch.
Jordan McPhee fed Fiso for another inside basket
followed by Brittany McPhee's short range jumper at the 5:58 mark, but Laura Stockton closed out the quarter scoring on a critical driving basket augmented by a free throw on the same sequence to bring Gonzaga Prep within 47-42 going into the third quarter.
It was a Brittany McPhee short range jump shot that kept the Rams ahead by 49-44 in the Rams' favor with just more than five minutes left in regulation play.
The Bullpup defense engaged in far reaching defense that fueled the offense for an 8-0 surge led by 6-foot junior Otiana Gildon, who scored a game total of 18 points with 15 rebounds. Gonzaga Prep executed the pick and roll well between guard Hannah Caudill and post Gildon to get the Bullpups into a 52-49 lead as the clock showed 1:02 left in the fourth quarter.
"We were stuck on 49 for a long time,"
recalled Mt. Rainier head coach Bob Bolam. "It was a
Jordan McPhee finally found Kaiti Freeberg behind the G-Prep zone for a basket with 18.7 seconds remaining.
The Rams nearly got the ball back with full court pressure defense. A loose ball squirted around near half court before the Bullpups hung on to the ball with nine seconds remaining.
Mt. Rainier had to give three fouls to get Gonzaga Prep to the bonus foul shot situation, and with three seconds left Hanna Caudill converted the first shot and missed the second shot on which she was called for a lane violation, leaving the Rams to plan a last try to get the ball up court for a shot.
"We didn't have enough fouls to put them on the line," said Bolam. "We had to go for steals, and we were so close twice. Then we had to foul."
The Rams were only able to reach mid court where Jordan McPhee's long runner at the buzzer fell short.
> "We expected them to fight back," said
Brittany McPhee. "I play with them all the time in AAU. They don't quit."
In the beginning quarter, the Bullpups torched the net well enough to pull away to a 17-10 lead before they went cold from the field. A pair of baskets by Fiso with an Aqeelah Williams bucket in between brought the Rams back within 17-16 at quarter's end.
Embroiled in 23-23 deadlock with 3:48 until halftime, MR charged back behind the McPhee twins. Brittany nailed a basket beyond the three-point arc on the right side, but Stockton countered with a short basket. Jordan notched a 10-footer and added two free throws after stealing the ball.
Brittany scored from eight feet before adding three-point play for a 34-25 Ram lead. Stockton hit a fall away jumper to make the halftime score 34-27.
Gildon opened the second half with a Bullpup basket, but a three-ball from Brittany preceded a Jordan rebound basket, two Brittany free throws and a Fiso layup that set up the 12 point Mt. Rainier lead and the frantic fourth quarter game action.
Brittany McPhee closed out her final high school game with 28 points, 19 rebounds and five blocked shots. Fiso earned nine points and six boards while Jordan McPhee ended with eight points and five assists. Freeberg forged four points while Williams had two.
Caudill earned 12 points with Stockton posting 11
points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Oona Harington was in double figures at 10.
After a fabulous four-year career that concluded with
many records, the soft-voiced Stanford commit shared memories.
"I'm so happy that I was with this team for four years," said Brittany McPhee, looking back and remembering this and all the people will always be a part of me."
Tournament all-time scoring leader and MVP of the tournament plus two-time Gatorade player of the year McPhee enjoyed of all her experiences, but when asked about having a championship versus the records, her soft-spoken response tells it all.
"I'd trade it," all-time leading state scorer with 2,815 career points McPhee whispered as a
tear gently trickled down her cheek."
The total experiences of four years as well as this year in a truly remarkable journey were not lost on another Ram player as well as the head coach.
"It was amazing to play with this team," said junior Fiso. "Everyone's a family. We just missed some shots and didn't rebound well. It was amazing playing with this team. It's such a great experience.
I'll miss everyone with Brittany going to Stanford and everyone (the seniors) else going to other places."
The final legacy was spoken by Bolam.
"You lose and you feel that pain of losing, but overall, she (Brittany) had a great career. It (the state championship) would have been the icing on the cake. You can't ask more of a kid. The girls did a great job and wanted to win so badly. I'll look back and remember this great experience."
Brittany was first team all-tournament and MVP by averaging 24.3 ppg, 13 rebounds per game and 1.3 assists.
Williams gained second team all-tournament with 10.3 points per game and 2.7 caroms per game.
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