Lynnwood finally gets to play on the big stage

Players from the Lynnwood girls basketball team have visited the Tacoma Dome each March for the past four years.

But they weren’t sitting where they wanted to be sitting.

For the first time since 2010 — before any of the current Lynnwood players were in high school — the Royals will be playing in the state quarterfinals instead of watching from the stands.

“It was everything for us, in that our senior girls have never played a game in the Tacoma Dome,” Lynnwood coach Everett Edwards said. “We’ve gone there as guests and we’ve watched a lot of our friends play and a lot of our teammates from AAU and club ball play. But it’s the first time that we get to walk on that floor as Lynnwood High School and represent our school and our district. We’re very excited.”

The Royals have made it to the state tournament in three of the past four years, but lost in the regional rounds in 2011 and 2013. Last Saturday, Lynnwood defeated Bellarmine Prep 75-33 to finally clinch a spot in the Class 4A quarterfinals at the Tacoma Dome.

“It’s always been a goal that I’ve had, and coming up short these last three years — and then making it senior year — is a relief,” said guard Jasmin Edwards, one of three seniors on the Lynnwood roster. “It’s excitement. It’s also sad because it’s the last week. It’s just a whole bunch of emotions all together.”

The Royals’ opponent in today’s quarterfinals — Kentwood — is a familiar one. The Conquerors ended Lynnwood’s season last year with a 61-60 double overtime win in the regionals.

“Last year we were one game short and that was devastating,” said sophomore Mikayla Pivec, who had 13 points and 14 rebounds in the 2013 game with Kentwood. “But we’re excited for this year and the game against Kentwood. That’ll be a fun matchup. I want to get back at them a little bit.”

Everett Edwards said it took a while for him to get over last season’s loss.

“Kentwood was a game that was just devastating for us,” he said. “I know for me, it personally took a few weeks just to get that dark cloud out from over me and a lot of our players and coaches felt the same way. It’s a different team and a different year, but at the same time that’s another team that has beaten us in the last couple years and if we have chance to even the score, I’m very, very excited about that.”

Lynnwood comes to Tacoma with just one defeat on its record — a 59-49 loss to defending 3A state champion Cleveland on New Year’s Day. The Royals also played against perennial 4A contender Mount Rainier, winning 57-54 in double overtime, and went undefeated in the prestigious Nike Northwest Invitational, with a 66-54 victory over South Medford (Ore.) in the title game.

Everett Edwards said Lynnwood “purposely scheduled very tough games” to prepare for the competition it would face in the postseason.

“We’ve played some tough games earlier this season,” Pivec said. “We know that once you get to a state championship, all the teams are going to be good. So having tough games before helps us prepare for this.”

Lynnwood is led by Jasmin Edwards, coach Edwards’ daughter, who provides her father with what he calls “another coach out on the floor.”

“She calms us down when we’re playing too fast and when we’re not playing fast enough, she picks up the pace,” Everett Edwards said. “There’s lots of times when I ask (Jasmin), ‘What do you see? What do you think?’ And nine times out of 10 I’ll go with her recommendation.”

Pivec also has been a key to the Royals’ success. After a breakout year last season, she has established herself as a force in the post. Averaging a double-double each game, Pivec has teamed with freshman Kelsey Rogers to expand Lynnwood’s post presence.

“She definitely helps with our rebounds,” Jasmin Edwards said, “and she’s just a great scorer, great player and a great teammate.”

Lynnwood has two other seniors — Grace Douglas and Hannah Valavala — who hope to end their careers with a deep state run.

“It’s been our goal since freshman year,” Douglas said. “I just can’t believe it’s happening. It’s what we’ve worked for. … So finally, senior year, we get to end high school being where we want to be.”

The Royals’ quarterfinal game is scheduled for 9 a.m. today. The Lynnwood players didn’t seem too worried about the early start.

“We’ve been playing in the summer and in tournaments when we had earlier games, so as a group we’re pretty familiar with that.” Jasmin Edwards said. “We’re ready.”

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