By John Boyle Herald Writer
PUYALLUP — It’s a pretty long drive from Arlington to Puyallup High School, but on this particular road trip, Eagles forward Jayla Russ feels right at home.
For the second straight year, Arlington faced Todd Beamer with a trip to the 4A state tournament on the line, and for the second straight year, Russ led the way to send the Eagles to the Tacoma Dome. Russ scored 13 of her game-high 15 points after halftime to lead Arlington to a 35-33 overtime victory over the Titans, extending the season of last year’s state runner-up.
A year earlier, the then-freshman Russ scored what at the time was a career-best 15 points to lead the Eagles past Beamer and secure a trip to state.
“She was great,” Arlington coach Joe Marsh said. “Jayla as a freshman last year had her coming-out party in this gym, had a great game, and she did it again tonight. We needed every one of those buckets, and she came to play. She’s just a great kid.”
The eighth-ranked Eagles needed every one of those buckets because, as Marsh noted, “points were hard to come by” for both teams in a defensive struggle. Arlington led 12-10 after one quarter, but the two teams totaled just 23 points in the second and third quarters combined. After a slightly higher-scoring fourth quarter, the Eagles won thanks to more stingy defense — Beamer committed 25 turnovers in the game, the majority of which were forced by Arlington’s suffocating defense — and the only points in overtime, a layup from Russ on their first possession of the period.
Arlington (20-4) led almost the entire fourth quarter, but the fourth-ranked Titans (22-3) pulled ahead on a Quinessa Caylao-Do 3-pointer with 1:38 left. Emma Janousek, who for most of the night made her mark with defense, tied the game with a pull-up jumper with 1:10 left on the clock, then nearly put her team ahead in regulation but a layup attempt that appeared good somehow rolled around the rim and spun out. The teams exchanged turnovers from there, and regulation then ended on a long 3-point attempt by Beamer sophomore Nia Alexander that hit the front rim.
“It was extremely stressful,” Russ said of the low-scoring game that saw neither team lead by more than five points.
In addition to playing tough defense, the Eagles also bought themselves a lot of extra possessions with 16 offensive rebounds, including six by 5-foot-8 guard Gracie Castaneda. Lyndsay Leatherman added 10 rebounds, Russ had eight, and Janousek contributed five steals and four rebounds.
“For us it’s been defense all season, that’s the thing that got us here,” Marsh said. “I think we did a great job playing defense tonight, and against that team — they’re big and athletic — one of our focuses was just rebounding. The kids just did a great job. What a game.”
Marsh was particularly impressed with the defensive effort of Janousek, a sophomore guard who was a constant nuisance to Beamer’s offensive efforts: “Emma is the leader of our defense, she does it all the time, every game. She’s one of those kids where if you look at the stat sheet, you don’t go ‘wow.’ But when you watch her play, she works hard all night long and makes life miserable for other teams.”
And while Russ scored 13 of her team’s final 19 points, Leatherman, the team’s lone senior, deserves plenty of credit for the work that didn’t show up in the scorebook. With the 6-1 center spending her afternoon tangling with Beamer’s 6-3 post Megan Huff, the 6-1 Russ was a mismatch for the rest of Beamer’s defenders, and Leatherman did a pretty impressive point guard impersonation to feed her teammate with entry passes that led to several easy buckets.
“You have to deal with Lyndsay Leatherman, and that takes Huff away, so we’re trying to exploit that and go away from that,” Marsh said.
Added Russ: “Since Lyndsay was guarded by Huff, I thought I would be able to drive. Marsh told me before the game that no one could guard me.”
And now the Eagles return to state, where they made a run to the title game a year ago, which was far from a given this year having lost Krista Showalter and Lindsay Brown, key members from last year’s team, to graduation.
“At the beginning of the season no one thought we’d be back,” Leatherman said. “And we’re back.”
At Puyallup H.S.
Arlington 12 4 7 10 2 — 35
Todd Beamer 10 7 5 11 0 — 33
Arlington—Gracie Castaneda 4, Serafina Balderas 0, Sarah Shortt 2, Sevi Biesler 0, Olivia Larson 0, Emma Janousek 6, Jessica Ludwig 0, Abby Anderson 0, Jayla Russ 15, Lyndsay Leatherman 8. Beamer—Quinessa Caylao-Do 12, Megan Huff 13, Japhera McEachin 0, Giavanni Flowers 0, Ta’Lea Culp 0, Carrie Lyn Romos 0, Nia Alexander 4, Jalynn Piper 4, Darion Brown 0. 3-point goals—Russ 1, Caylao-Do 2. Records—Arlington 20-4, Beamer 22-3.