After a heartbreaking loss to Kentwood in a loser-out 4A regional game a year ago, the Lynnwood Royals — led by then-junior point guard Jasmin Edwards — set a goal to win the state championship.
The Royals came up just short last weekend, falling to eventual champion Gonzaga Prep in the 4A state semifinals at the Tacoma Dome.
Lynnwood, which was ranked No. 1 in the state in the final Associated Press poll of the season, went on to finish third. Though the Royals came up short of their goal, they hardly settled. They posted a 25-2 record and their third-place finish was the best in program history.
“Our two losses were to the two state champs (3A and 4A),” Edwards said. “It shows how good of a team we were and how close we were.”
Lynnwood’s only loss in the regular season was to the eventual 3A state champion Cleveland Eagles on Jan. 1.
Lynnwood had no shortage of outstanding players, but the leader on and off the court was Edwards. For her efforts, the senior is The Herald’s 2014 Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Edwards said. “As a team we’ve been working really hard, but individually I’ve been working really hard as well and it feels good to get recognized that way and to know that all the hard work has been paying off.”
In Edwards’ four years on varsity she has helped raise Lynnwood to one of the top girls programs in the state, but she also has suffered major disappointments. As a freshman, Edwards came up one game short of advancing to state when the Royals lost a loser-out regional game. A year later, Lynnwood was ousted by Glacier Peak in districts.
In her junior year, the Royals entered the regional round with just one loss and were an overwhelming favorite to get to Tacoma for the first time in Edwards’ high-school career, but were upset by Kentwood 61-60 in double overtime.
As good as the Royals had been for three seasons, they still faced questions about their inability to advance past regionals.
“Coming up short the last three years has always been a tough story to talk about,” Edwards said.
The Royals answered their critics emphatically this year, routing Bellarmine Prep 75-33 in the regionals.
“It really was a great feeling,” Edwards said. “Going into halftime we were up a pretty good amount, but we knew we didn’t want anything close to happen like last year, so we definitely pulled through and finished the game strong.”
It was a moment made even more special by the fact Edwards got to enjoy it with two members of her family — her sister, sophomore teammate Jordyn Edwards, and her father, Lynnwood head coach Everett Edwards.
“For us being able to win that regional game and to be able to hang out with each other the whole week in practice and going down to Tacoma on Wednesday and being able to experience that as a family is something I will always remember,” Everett Edwards said.
The season appeared to be playing out like a storybook for the Royals, who drew none other than Kentwood in the state quarterfinals. Seeing the game as an opportunity for redemption, the Royals dispatched the Conquerors 71-44 to advance to the semifinals against Gonzaga Prep.
The matchup of the state’s No. 1- and No. 2-ranked 4A teams lived up to expectations. After trailing for much of the game, Lynnwood took a one-point lead late in the game on an Edwards 3-pointer, but the Bullpups were too much down the stretch, upsetting the Royals 61-56.
With the state title out of reach, Jasmin helped rally her disappointed teammates for their game the following day against Moses Lake for third and fifth places. The Royals trailed at halftime, but went on to defeat the Chiefs 48-38.
“That was a classic ending game for Jasmin’s high school career in that she led us when we were struggling,” Everett said. “For her to step up and to make the plays that she made on both ends of the floor, defensively and offensively, was a classic sendoff for Jasmin in terms of her ability to will a win and give it everything she had.”
Along with the excitement of the highest finish in school history, came the realization for Jasmin that her high school career was over.
“There were definitely a lot of emotions in that moment,” she said. “There was happiness and excitement for accomplishing third place in state. But then it kind of sets in once we’re in the locker room that that was our last game. It was real emotional.”
It also was a bittersweet moment for Jasmin’s father.
“The number one thing when Jasmin began playing for me at Lynnwood High School that I wanted was to have her not hate me when she graduated by being her high school coach and making it a non-fun environment,” Everett Edwards said. “We’ve accomplished that goal.
“For any parents out there with kids that play basketball, just cherish the times that your kids are around. Time has just gone by so fast.”
Jasmin Edwards will continue her basketball career next season at Central Washington University, which should please the Wildcats’ coaching staff.
“The one thing about Jazz is she will do everything you ask of her and more,” Jasmin’s mother, Laurie Edwards, said. “She’s that one kid that just is a coach’s dream.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.