Mountlake Terrace girls’ rally falls short

TACOMA — The Mountlake Terrace girls basketball team needed just one second to complete its comeback.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, time ran out on their season.

Mountlake Terrace’s comeback effort fell just short, with Lincoln holding off the Hawks 61-59 in a 3A state regional game at Mt. Tahoma High School on Friday night. The loss ended Mountlake Terrace’s season.

“It’s tough. We were there,” Mountlake Terrace head coach Zach Wilde said. “With 18 seconds left I said, ‘How many seconds do you need to win the game? One. There’s 18 of them up there so we can go out and get the ball. They’re going to make mistakes. We can go out and capitalize on them.’

“It’s just tough.”

The Hawks, who led by two points at halftime, trailed by as many as 10 points in the final quarter before making it a one-possession game in the final two minutes. Mountlake Terrace’s Maddy Kristjanson made a basket to trim the deficit to two points, and the Hawks got the ball back after Lincoln threw it out of bounds on the ensuing possession.

After a timeout with 18 seconds remaining in the game, Mountlake Terrace brought the ball up the floor. But Lincoln’s Joy Failauga stole it from the Hawks and the Abes and Hawks exchanged free throws in the closing moments to wrap up the game.

“They are good,” Lincoln head coach Jamila Jones said. “… They all can handle it. They all can shoot it. I watched film on them and the first film I was like, ‘Oh man. OK. All right, I like our odds. Then I watched the Glacier Peak title game with them and thought, ‘Oh man! They shoot one through eight.’”

Mountlake Terrace was thrown off by the Abes’ switch to a 2-3 zone defense in the second half, Wilde said. He was hopeful the switch would help the Hawks, a strong shooting team, but instead it seemed to cause hesitation by the Mountlake Terrace players.

“We kind of waited a little bit and waited for them to take it at us and we took too long going back at them,” Wilde said. “In the third quarter, we started getting a run at the end and in the fourth quarter we got there and made some free throws.

“It’s just toughness and wanting to be there. That’s how we always are. It’s like I said last week (after the Hawks’ 53-52 loss to Glacier Peak in the district championship), if there’s a fifth quarter, we win it. We don’t have bad quarters. We just let another team make a run or wait too long to start ours.”

Kristjanson, a senior forward, led Mountlake Terrace with 19 points and nine rebounds. Junior Samantha Romanowski scored 18 points and grabbed five rebounds and Nikkie Froehlich added 11 points, four rebounds and three steals.

On defense, Mountlake Terrace — ranked No. 6 in the latest Associate Press prep poll — limited Lincoln star Tia Braggs to just two points in the first half. Braggs, a sophomore who was named the 3A Narrows League MVP this season, didn’t make a field goal until 31/2 minutes into the third quarter. She finished with 11 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out with 1:06 to play.

With Braggs struggling, Lincoln’s Breneya Johnson stepped up in the first half, with 14 of her team-high 18 points in the opening quarters. Aamira Turner (16 points) helped the Abes close it out, scoring 10 points in the final period — six coming from the free-throw line.

“They’ve been battle-tested a little bit up North in their league but we practiced hard all week,” Jones said. “We had a really good week of practice. I think we were prepared for it. Teams that basically have a bunch of guards had given us trouble, but we weathered the storm and just kind of gritted that one out.”

The loss ended a 2013-14 campaign for the Hawks that saw them improve from 7-12 last season to 18-6 in their first year under Wilde. The Snohomish and University of Hawaii — Hilo grad praised the effort of his team all year, calling it one of the best teams he’s ever been a part of.

“Nine months ago, no one would have thought that they would be here,” Wilde said. “It’s emotional. I took the job and I love this team more than any team I’ve ever played on; any team I’ve ever been a part of. This is one of the funnest teams. I get off work, I come here and I’m excited.”

The Hawks have seven seniors on their roster, including Kristjanson and Froehlich. Kenzie Zehrung, Senaiet Zerom, Kirsty Dale, Shaian Pagaling and Amanda Tompkins also played their last basketball game for Mountlake Terrace.

“Some of these girls have been here four years, three years and it’s the last time they lace up,” Wilde said. “Every last game is tough like that. You know it’s going to happen, but it ends all the time. There’s 93 3A teams and 92 of them aren’t bringing the state trophy home.”

Wilde is proud of how his team fought all season, and is eagerly awaiting his second season in charge. He hopes to develop sustained success at Mountlake Terrace, which has never won a state playoff game in girls basketball

“I love it. I love being around these girls. I love being at Terrace,” Wilde said. “All the support from everyone. I don’t think you could walk into a better situation as a coach. The scary thing is some of these players are gone. I’ve probably aged really fast this year because of some of the moments, but we were one day away from playing in March. For this team and this program, it’s unbelievable really.”

At Mt. Tahoma H.S.

Mountlake Terrace 11 17 10 21 – 59

Lincoln 9 17 16 19 – 61

Mountlake Terrace–Nikkie Froehlich 11, Kenzie Zehrung 0, Samantha Romanowski 18, Kirsty Dale 2, Shaian Pagaling 9, Yesenia Pena 0, Riley Zucker 0, Maddy Kristjanson 19, Amanda Tompkins 0, Claire Zucker 0. Lincoln–Tamia Brags 11, Donaisiah Brooks 1, Joy Failauga 2, Breneya Johnson 18, Kayla McLean 1, Victoria Mukisa 0, Charity Talo 0, Kiaira Thomas 12, Aamira Turner 16. 3-point goals–Romanowski 1, Thomas 2. Mountlake Terrace 18-6 overall. Lincoln 20-5.

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