Arlington’s Samara Morrow takes the ball down the court during the 3A quarterfinal game against Meadowdale on Thursday, March 2, 2023 in Tacoma, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Arlington’s Samara Morrow takes the ball down the court during the 3A quarterfinal game against Meadowdale on Thursday, March 2, 2023 in Tacoma, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Arlington girls down Wesco-foe Meadowdale, reach semifinals

The Eagles clamp down on defense to win 61-43 and will face No. 3 Lake Washington Friday with a berth in the 3A title game on the line.

TACOMA — The Arlington High School girls basketball team is in familiar territory.

The second-seeded Eagles used their stingy defense and another big night from junior point guard Samara Morrow to secure a 61-43 victory over eighth-seeded Meadowdale in the Class 3A Hardwood Classic quarterfinals at the Tacoma Dome on Thursday.

It’s the third straight state semifinals appearance for Arlington, which has placed third at the past two state tournaments.

“I couldn’t be more proud of these kids,” Arlington coach Joe Marsh said. “I think sometimes people think it just happens, but it doesn’t. It takes a lot of work for these kids to get here. This is a different team from last year, so we had to figure that all out. It took us about a half a season to figure out and since then we’ve been on a role. I’m just really happy with the way they’re playing right now.”

Arlington (22-2) advances to face third-seeded Lake Washington at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Meadowdale (19-8) falls to the consolation bracket and faces fifth-seeded Lincoln (Tacoma) at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

Morrow continued what’s been a torrid back half of her junior season by pouring in a game-high 28 points and added two assists and two steals. She used her speed to get to the bucket early during a seven-point first quarter. The 5-foot-7 junior then showed off her shooting ability by nailing back-to-back 3-pointers late in the second. She added a pair of free throws after as the Eagles pushed their lead to 32-20 at the break. Morrow hit back-to-back 3s again in the third, the first of which gave her team its first points of the quarter at the 4:07 mark, and pushed her point total to 24 through three quarters after finishing through contact near the hoop and converting a 3-point play.

“I’m just looking forward,” Morrow said. “I want to keep going. I want us to advance. This is really important to us.”

Morrow finished 8-of-11 from the field, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. Her performance came less than a week after dropping a team-high 25 points against seventh-seeded Lakeside (Seattle) in the state regionals, and about three weeks after going off for a career-high 37 points in her team’s district quarterfinals win over Monroe on Feb. 10.

“She’s just done an outstanding job in the second half of the season,” Marsh said. “We always say that when Samara plays like that, we’re really hard to beat.”

Sophomore Kierra Reese gave Arlington its biggest lead of the game with a 3-pointer to make it 52-31 with 5:45 left in the fourth, and the Eagles closed it with more strong defense and free throws down the stretch.

Senior standout Jenna Villa, a Washington State signee, provided a steady hand in an all-around performance with 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Reese added 11 points, six rebounds and three steals. Morrow, Villa and Reese combined for 59 of their team’s 61 points.

While the trio kept the offense going, the Eagles’ defense clamped down and didn’t let anything come easy for the Mavericks’ offense.

Arlington held Meadowdale scoreless from the field for a 4-plus-minute stretch in the first quarter. The Eagles then allowed just seven points in the second as they built a double-digit lead by halftime. It was more of the same in the second half as Meadowdale didn’t hit a shot from the field until the 2:30 mark of the third quarter.

“Our defense is our strength. That’s what we do,” Marsh said. “… When we buckle down and get after it, we’re hard to score on. It just makes such a difference, especially when you get late in the season and in districts and state, we talk about defense is what wins. I feel pretty good about our offense with Jenna and Samara and other kids stepping up, it’s the defense that’s gonna make the difference. Again it was the difference tonight.”

Arlington kept Meadowdale standout Gia Powell in check along the way. Powell, a junior, finished with nine points on 4-of-12 shooting.

“I thought we did a good job on Gia,” Marsh said. “She makes them go. She’s a tough cover because she’s always moving.”

Senior Ava Powell led the Mavericks with 14 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Senior Jordan Leith added six points on a pair of third-quarter 3s. Meadowdale can advance to the fourth/sixth-place game with a victory on Friday.

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