In the final two seconds she turned it into a night she will remember forever.
After being held scoreless in the second, third, and first 7:57 of the fourth quarter, Romanowski made the biggest shot of her life with 2.4 seconds remaining in the game. Her leaning, contested 3-pointer gave the Hawks a 61-60 victory over the Scots and at least a share of the Wesco 3A South league championship — something that hasn't been done at Mountlake Terrace since 1980.
"It was amazing," Romanowski said. "I don't even know how to explain it. My heart was just going. I knew we needed that. It was scary."
Romanowski managed three field goals, two of them 3s, in the first quarter, but was contained by the Scots suffocating defense in the subsequent quarters. The Scots made it difficult for her to even catch the ball let alone get a shot off, including the game-winner.
After Shorecrest's Onyie Chibuogwu missed two free throws with 8.6 seconds left, Romanowski quickly dribbled the length of the floor and put up the off-balance three.
"The shot that you don't think you want her to shoot is the one that goes in," Mountlake Terrace coach Zach Wilde said. "You try to get her a shot for the whole game and then she hits that one."
At this time last year the Hawks were wrapping up a last-place finish in the league. Thanks to Romanowski's shot and a stellar effort by her teammates through her struggles on Tuesday, they are now league champions.
"It's a testament to where this team has come from last year till now," Wilde said. "They don't quit and they don't bury their heads. They come out and they do it."
The Hawks resilience was tested in the final minutes of the game. Trailing by five — the largest deficit for either team since the score was 5-0 Mountlake Terrace in the first quarter — with two minutes to play in the game, Mountlake Terrace senior Nikkie Froehlich hit the first of back-to- back 3s to cut the deficit to two. Thirty-seven seconds later junior Riley Zucker's three gave the Hawks a 58-57 lead.
That lead stood for over a minute until the Hawks called timeout with 27.3 seconds to play. With 10 seconds left on the shot clock Wilde was looking to set up a play to extend his team's lead. Instead, Chibuogwu picked off the inbounds pass and took it the distance of the court for a spinning layup over Romanowski that gave the Scots a one-point lead.
Chibuogwu followed that with a steal on the Hawks' next possession, who were immediately forced to foul Shorecrest point guard Keyonna Jones with 10.9 second left in the game. Jones made the first free throw and missed the second, but Chibuogwu corralled the rebound and was fouled.
Her two misses opened the door for the Hawks one last time.
"As long as it's a one possession game, I don't take anything for granted," Shorecrest coach Dori Monson said. "They're a great shooting team. Our girls battled really hard and Romanowski hit a fantastic shot — a lot of credit to her. It was contested and defended well, she made it. That was the big play."
Kristjanson finished with 19 points to lead the Hawks and Nikkie Froehlich added 14 to help pick up the slack for Romanowski's struggles in the second and third quarters.
"It's awesome to see how these girls don't rely on one player and make plays," Wilde said. "When Sam isn't having a great night and teams like to take her away, we can still bear our head and get scores."
Shorecrest came into the game at 9-2 in league, one game behind the 10-1 Hawks. The Hawks only league loss had come earlier in the season to Shorecrest. With the win, the Hawks are the only team in the Wesco 3A to have beaten every team in the league at least once and can secure the league title alone with a win over Glacier Peak on Thursday.
"Going through and beating everybody, it's awesome to me," Wilde said. "Especially from a team that was in last place, the team that was out (of the playoffs) last year."
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Shorecrest H.S.
Mountlake Terrace 13 14 12 22 — 61
Shorecrest 13 14 13 20 — 60
Mountlake Terrace—Claire Zucker 2, Nikkie Froehlich 14, Samantha Romanowski 11, Kirsty Dale 0, Shaian Pagaling 8, Yesenia Pena 0, Riley Zucker 7, Maddy Kristjanson 19. Shorecrest—Lindsey Shattuck 10, Wurrie Njadoe 7, Arianna Rantz 0, Jazlyn Owens 0, Keyonna Jones 11, Onyie Chibuogwu 20, Savannah Tidwell 0, Jalyn Hizey 0, Uju Chibuogwu 12. 3-point goals—Kristjanson 1, Romanowski 3, Pagaling 1, Froehlich 1, R. Zucker 1, Shattuck 2, U. Chibuogwu 2.
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