TACOMA _ Two months after dislocating the pinky finger on her right shooting hand, Brooke Pahukoa is playing as well as ever for the Lake Stevens girls basketball team.
Pahukoa, who still wears protective tape around her pinky and ring fingers during games, scored 34 points in the Vikings’ 52-36 victory over Kentwood in Thursday night’s Class 4A state tournament opener at the Tacoma Dome. It is the second-best total of her four-year Lake Stevens career (she had a school-record 42 points vs. Marysville-Pilchuck in November), and is also a school state-tournament mark.
Pahukoa, a 5-foot-9 senior guard who will play next season at Boise State University, had 22 of her points in the first half as the Vikings built a double-digit lead they kept the rest of the way.
Lake Stevens breezed through the second half, never letting Kentwood get closer than 11 points, to reach tonight’s 7:15 p.m. semifinal showdown with Western Conference rival Arlington.
“The last week and a half my finger has felt really good,” Pahukoa said. “Probably the best it’s felt (since her injury). And it feels great right now.
“Maybe a fractured pinky helped me a little bit,” she added with a laugh.
Pahukoa dislocated her finger in a Dec. 29 game against Lewis and Clark. She missed six games before returning in late January, and since her return the Vikings have gone 10-1, losing only to Lynnwood at the district tournament.
Against Kentwood, a team that beat Lynnwood in a double-overtime regional playoff game last weekend, Pahukoa converted 13 of 24 field goal attempts with one 3-pointer, and she added seven of eight free throw tries.
Pahukoa, who also grabbed eight rebounds, scored her 22 first-half points in an 11-minute stretch of the first and second periods.
“From the beginning (of the game), I felt very confident with my shot,” Pahukoa said. “That was nice to have. I try to do what the team needs me to do, but I just felt very confident (shooting).
“It was,” she said, “one of those days when the rim was just huge.”
“She was spectacular,” Vikings coach Randall Edens said of Pahukoa. “She was in such a rhythm, I don’t know that there was much Kentwood could do (to stop her).”
Pahukoa’s ability to attack defenses and create shots “is what makes her a remarkable player,” he said. “And the best part is, our other kids recognize when she’s got it going like that.
“We’ll still run offense … but if the ball gets back to her, she goes and makes a play. And none of the other girls are going to think she’s being selfish. When she’s got it going like that, you let her keep going.”
The rest of the Vikings, meanwhile, filled in capably in other ways, particularly at the defensive end. Lake Stevens pestered Kentwood into 17 turnovers and held the Conquerors to just .317 percent (13-for-41) from the field.
“We played really well,” Edens said. “I think that’s the most relaxed we’ve been coming into a game, in terms of this environment (at state). That was something you could tell right away. We were ready to go and it was a lot of fun.”
The Vikings are looking forward to tonight’s game against neighboring Arlington. The teams split their two-game season series.
“It’s such an exciting thing for both programs, knowing one or the other is going to get to the title game,” Edens said. “What a spectacular thing for our league.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he added. “Arlington is certainly going to be really well prepared, but it helps us because we know what they’re going to bring. … There will be a lot of comfort for both sides.”
This is the seventh trip to state in eight seasons for Edens as the Lake Stevens head coach, and it is the first time one of his teams has reached the semifinals.
“The best part is, with the season we’ve had and regardless of what happens the rest of the way, we’re walking away with a trophy,” he said.
“We didn’t win the league, we didn’t win the district title, we had to go the long road (with extra playoff games to reach state, following the district loss to Lynnwood), but here we are with the chance to try to get to a title, and that’s pretty exciting.”
At Tacoma Dome
Kentwood 10 8 11 7 — 36
Lake Stevens 23 11 10 8 — 52
Kentwood — Kate Kramer 10, Sara Roberts 0, Sarah Toeaina 16, Ashley Rolsma 0, Zaria Jones 2, Chante Brooks 0, Kylee Ashley 4, Jenny Johnson 4, Kendall Goodwin 0. Lake Stevens — Alex Briggs 0, Mallory Gipson 0, Cassidy Fifield 0, Chelsea Pahls 4, Kacie Reichert 0, Ivy Blackmon 0, Brittney Pahukoa 4, Emily Vandergrift 6, Brooke Pahukoa 34, Kali Long 4, Hailey Wilson 0. 3-point goals — Brooke Pahukoa 1. Records — Kentwood is 19-8, Lake Stevens is 20-7.