TACOMA — A variety of factors motivated the Glacier Peak girls basketball team’s players on their quest to win a state title this season.
They played for themselves. They played for each other. They played for their coaching staff, to which they’ve formed a unique bond. They played for their friends and family members. They played to make history; their school has never won a state title in boys or girls basketball.
They played to leave a legacy. They played to satisfy their natural desire to compete; on occasion, Grizzlies coach Brian Hill had to stop practices because they went so hard that he was afraid that somebody was going to get hurt.
And they played for respect. They hope that because of the success they’ve had this season, their school will gain more widespread recognition, and no Glacier Peak player ever again will take the court after being announced as playing for ‘Glacier Park,’ which has happened in the past.
So after the Grizzlies fell short of their goal by losing to Kentridge 60-46 on Saturday in the 4A Hardwood Classic championship game at the Tacoma Dome, their players were understandably overcome with emotion.
“We fell short, but I wouldn’t trade (this team) for anything,” said Glacier Peak point guard Samantha Fatkin. “I wouldn’t want to go to war with anyone else. We didn’t finish the way we wanted, but we have no regrets. We left it all out on the floor.”
Hill said that he hopes that his players will eventually look back on their second-place state finish, the best in the program’s history, with positive remembrances.
Glacier Peak won 24 straight games, a run that included Wesco 4A and 4A District 1 championships. The Grizzlies, led by three NCAA Division-I signees, were the highest-scoring 4A squad in the state.
“To get second place is awesome,” Hill said. “We wanted to win. That’s the goal. We had the talent to do it. Against Sunnyside (in Thursday’s quarterfinal) we were down and found a way to win. Against Moses Lake (in Friday’s semifinal) we were down and found a way to win. Tonight we were down and couldn’t find a way to win.
“We set so many records for this program along the way. This team established another level for the program with a second-place finish. You can’t scoff at that. I’m proud of them.”
The game was close for the first three quarters, but the Chargers won with their superlative fourth-quarter performance. They outscored the Grizzlies 23-11 in the final eight minutes. Kentridge took the lead for good at 39-37 on two free throws from post Jordan Jenkins with 7 minutes, 21 seconds to go in the game.
Glacier Peak scored six straight points at the start of the second half, a run capped by an Abbie Juozapaitis 3-pointer, to take a 34-28 lead with 5:34 remaining in the third quarter. But Chargers post JaQuaya Miller scored six straight points to tie the game, and teammate Daylani Ballena hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Kentridge a 37-35 lead at the end of the period.
The teams traded leads in the first half, which ended tied at 28-28.
Kentridge dominated on the boards, collecting 55 rebounds to Glacier Peak’s 32. Miller recorded 17 boards to go along with her game-high 27 points, and Jenkins grabbed 12 rebounds.
“Those posts are legit,” Hill said. “When it comes down to it, we just tried too hard. You can’t be afraid to lose.”
“(Glacier Peak) is really fast and aggressive offensively,” said Chargers coach Bob Sandall, “but we’re confident in our posts.”
Miller was voted as the tournament’s most valuable player. Grizzlies guard Paisley Johnson (13 points) earned first-team all-tournament honors, and teammates Fatkin (13 points) and Kayla Watkins (14 points, 15 rebounds) were voted to the second team.
Glacier Peak will obviously have a different look next season without the services of Fatkin, Johnson and Watkins, but Hill believes the legacy that those players hoped to leave behind has been left.
“I don’t think we’ll get called ‘Glacier Park’ anymore,” he said. “I hope other teams are recognizing that we’re a good program.”