By Jon Saperstein Herald Writer
TACOMA — As four of the six seniors on the Arlington girls basketball team exited their locker room of the Tacoma Dome Saturday night after their 58-42 loss to Mead in the 4A state championship, they clutched each other’s hands tightly, walking together to meet a huge mass of Eagles fans.
These seniors would not be separated.
It’s a familiar story for anyone who has followed the Arlington program this season.
Though tears streamed down their faces earlier in the night, their red faces beamed with pride.
“We accomplished so many things this season,” senior Lindsay Brown said.
The Eagles started the season 14-0. They won the Wesco North title. They made the state tournament for the first time since 2001 and the final for the first time since 1982 — Arlington’s only basketball state championship. The second-place trophy that the second-year coach Joe Marsh and his team bring back to Arlington will be just the third piece of hardware in school history for girls basketball. Arlington also has an eighth place trophy from 1999.
“That second-place trophy we are really proud of,” Marsh said. “That’s something that nobody can take from us.”
Though the tears spread throughout the locker room, it wasn’t because the Eagles let one slip away or they felt like a missed opportunity. It was more that such a good thing has come to an end.
“(Mead) deserved that one tonight,” Marsh said. “They were the better team. … If they have a weakness, we didn’t find it.”
After the game, Marsh and his staff helped the players keep their heads high.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “It’s tough right now, but we will step away from this in perspective.”
Brown, who lead the team in scoring all season, had her worst game of the tournament and was scoreless in the first half against the Panthers. But she showed her mettle in the second half and reminded Eagles fans of what will be her legacy.
“She’s one of the main reasons we are here,” Marsh said. “She got us this far.”
Brown was the spearhead of the six seniors, who Marsh said welcomed freshmen and sophomores and embraced them as an important part of this season’s journey. It has been a surprise ride.
“I wouldn’t have expected it,” Brown said. “To get second in state: it’s pretty impressive for us.”
Marsh could only gush about all of the Eagles who played their last game.
“Krista (Showalter) is a phenomenal point guard,” Marsh said. “She makes us go.”
He said Arlington couldn’t do without Taylor Grahm, who stretched defenses from beyond the 3-point line, and kept the Eagles in it early against Mead with a pair of first-quarter 3-pointers.
Marsh marveled at the growth of Winter Brown over his time with the school.
The loss of Veronica Ladines to a hand injury a month ago, was one that Marsh lamented because of her athleticism and versatility.
Perhaps forgotten by many fans, but not by Marsh, was Marissa Swegle, who didn’t play much this season, in part due to a knee injury.
Swegle came off the bench in the final seconds to score the final two points for the Eagles with a pair of free throws, much to the delight of the Arlington fans.
“She’s the emotional heart of this team,” Marsh said.
The six seniors set some new standards that everyone expects will carry into the future.
“The hallmark of this team is our lack of quit,” Marsh said. “We are going to do everything we can until that buzzer sounds to win the game.”
They did that 22 times this season including an overtime thriller against Lake Stevens Friday that Marsh said, “was the best game I’ve ever been involved with.”
“We have a great foundation to build on here.”