Boy, did the Eagles ever need a bucket.
What had minutes earlier looked like a convincing victory was spiraling out of control for the Arlington girls basketball team, and thanks to a big fourth-quarter run by Gonzaga Prep, the Eagles were suddenly up by only a point in the closing minutes of the Class 4A quarterfinal they had been leading by double digits only minutes earlier.
Then, just when it looked like Gonzaga Prep was going to ride its momentum to an incredible comeback victory, the Eagles finally got their bucket, a step-back three pointer from senior forward Lindsay Brown that proved to be the biggest moment in Arlington's 43-40 victory over the Bullpups from Spokane.
"That was a huge three," said Arlington coach Joe Marsh. "That was huge. That was huge."
So wait, Coach, are you saying it was huge?
"That's just a big play," Marsh said. "Again, a senior steps up and makes a big play for us and gets us right back to where we need to be."
Brown's three came with 1 minute, 55 seconds left in the game, only moments after she had helped preserve a one-point lead with a steal. Jessica Ludwig gave the Eagles a five-point lead with 1:18 left, but after the Eagles failed to extend that lead at the free throw line, Prep's Hannah Caudill hit a three to once again make it a one-possession game. Another missed free throw on the front end of a one-and-one gave the Bullpups a final chance to tie the game with 10 seconds remaining, but Laura Stockton's shot, which was contested by Brown and Taylor Grahm, came up short.
The win sets up an all-Wesco semifinal between Arlington (21-4) and Lake Stevens, which beat Kentwood in its quarterfinal. The Eagles and Vikings split a pair of games this season, with Arlington winning 77-51 in December, and the Vikings winning the rematch 55-41 in January.
The Bullpups came into the game ranked third in state having lost only three games—all to top-ranked Mead—but don't tell the ninth-ranked Eagles that they pulled off an upset victory Thursday.
"I don't feel like it's an upset," said Marsh, whose Eagles are at state for the first time since going four straight years from 1998-2001 during Kayla Burt's time at Arlington. "We were prepared for them. Our defense was fantastic tonight. I thought they were frustrated. We did a really good job of taking them out of what they normally do. I don't feel like we upset anybody. We're used to people not knowing who we are, where we're from and what we do, so we don't even deal with that mess. We just say, let's go play basketball and the better team will win, and we were the better team tonight."
Neither team looked like the better team early as both teams struggled to score thanks to a combination of good defense, first-day-of-state jitters, and the always tricky proposition of shooting in a dome. After Gonzaga Prep jumped to a quick 5-0 lead, neither team did much offensively for the rest of the half, though the Eagles were able to slowly build a 15-11 halftime lead.
"Everyone walked in, we were like, 'Oh my gosh, this is huge,'" said senior guard Krista Showalter said. "But after the first couple minutes, we settled down. I'm glad the other team wasn't at their best either."
Arlington was the first team to settle down in the second half, and as a result the Eagles built a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, and extended it to 11 points early in the fourth before Gonzaga Prep countered with a 15-5 run that had Arlington's sizable crowd willing the clock to go faster.
"We just like to make it exciting, I guess," Showalter joked. "We just couldn't put it away."
Well, the Eagles did put it away, they just did so with a higher degree of difficulty than was probably necessary. But thanks to Brown's timely three, Ludwig's clutch free throws and a couple of big stops down the stretch, the Eagles were able to hang on.
"Teams are going to make runs, and obviously it was late in the game," said Brown, who finished with a team-high 13 points and nine rebounds. "It didn't faze us at all. We just knew we had to stop them. I told the girls when they missed their free throws, I said, 'Hey, we've got 10 seconds, let's worry about that.'"
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Tacoma Dome
Gonzaga Prep 7 4 9 20—40
Arlington 7 8 15 13—43
Gonzaga Prep—Oona Harrington 2, Mary Hoffman 0, Laura Stockton 12, Lauren Weir 6, Kayla Leland 5, Hannah Caudill 6, Otiona Gildon 9, Wendy Gregory 0. Arlington—Taylor Grahm 3, Lindsay Brown 13, Krista Showalter 7, Emma Janousek 0, Jessica Ludwig 7, Winter Brown 5, Jayla Russ 4, Lyndsay Letherman 4. 3-point goals—Stockton 1, Caudill 1, Grahm 1, Brown 2, Ludwig 1, Russ 1. Records—Gonzaga Prep 23-4, Arlington 21-4.
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