TACOMA — After watching her team’s late double-digit lead vanish in stunningly quick fashion, Keira Marsh stepped to the foul line for the biggest free throws of her life.
The Arlington standout senior swished the first to tie the game. She sank the second to put her team back in front.
And with two more big free throws from Hannah Rork and a pair of defensive stops in the final 30 seconds, the Eagles survived a furious comeback from their league rivals.
Next up? A state semifinal rematch against unbeaten defending state champion Garfield.
Marsh hit a pair of go-ahead free throws in the final minute and third-seeded Arlington prevailed for a tense 50-47 win over fifth-seeded Snohomish in a Class 3A Hardwood Classic quarterfinal Thursday night in the Tacoma Dome.
“I can’t even describe the feeling — especially just being here,” Marsh said. “Any win in a gym is just crazy. But just here in this environment — winning on this court is just such a crazy feeling. … It’s just awesome.”
With the victory, the Eagles (20-2) earned their second consecutive trip to the state semifinals. Arlington will face No. 2 seed Garfield at 9 p.m. Friday in a rematch of their 2020 state semifinal encounter, when the Bulldogs beat the Eagles 53-36 en route to the state title.
“We’re excited to be here,” Arlington coach Joe Marsh said. “This is what we’ve been talking about all year. We’re in that semifinal now — one game away from the big one.”
When freshman Kierra Reese swished a corner 3-pointer to give the Eagles a 10-point lead with just under three minutes remaining, it looked like Arlington was well on its way to the semifinals.
But with a long-distance shooting barrage, the Panthers (16-5) stormed back.
Eastern Washington University signee Ella Gallatin, Jada Andresen, Cheyenne Rodgers and Addyson Gallatin drained 3-pointers on four consecutive possessions, combining for a 12-1 run that gave Snohomish a 47-46 edge with 1:03 to go.
“We get that lead and we think we’re in pretty good shape,” Joe Marsh said. “It’s a very low-scoring game all night, and then they come back — boom, boom, boom. … We got so focused on Ella (that) we left other people open, and kids knocked down shots.”
Snohomish then forced a turnover and had a chance to extend its lead, but the Panthers missed a 3-pointer. Marsh grabbed the rebound and was fouled, sending her to the line for a one-and-one situation with 34.6 seconds remaining.
The three-year starting point guard and Cal State East Bay signee calmly sank both free throws, giving the Eagles a 48-47 edge.
“I didn’t breathe for the last like three minutes of the game,” Keira Marsh said. “But Hannah came up to me and she’s like, ‘We do these every day. It’s a free throw. We do this every day.’ And I literally just took a breath and just really focused.
“And then after that first one, I was like, ‘OK, we’re tied. That’s all I need.’ And then the second one just came easily.”
On the ensuing Snohomish possession, senior guard Ella Gallatin twice tried to drive baseline, but was denied both times by the Eagles’ defense. The Panthers eventually turned the ball over on an errant pass and fouled Rork with 12.0 seconds to go, sending another Arlington senior to the line for a one-and-one situation.
And just like her teammate a few moments prior, Rork hit a pair of free throws to give the Eagles a three-point cushion.
“That’s why you want seniors and experience right now,” Joe Marsh said.
After Rork’s free throws, Ella Gallatin dribbled upcourt and launched a potential game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds. But Marsh contested the shot, grabbed the rebound and then ran out the clock to seal the victory and send her team into a frenzied celebration.
“That’s really hard to win that game when a team takes a lead late like that,” Joe Marsh said. “The thing you can’t do is panic. And we didn’t panic.”
Jenna Villa, a 6-foot-2 junior guard and four-star recruit, drilled three 3-pointers and led Arlington with 14 points and eight rebounds. Marsh added 13 points, six rebounds and four assists. And sophomore guard Samara Morrow scored 10 points for the Eagles, including seven in the opening quarter.
Ella Gallatin led Snohomish with 17 points. Rodgers added 11 points, Andreson scored nine points and Addyson Gallatin finished with eight for the Panthers.
Snohomish sank 10 3-pointers, including eight in the second half and seven in the game’s final 11 minutes.
“I was waiting all game for us to make a run at some point, because we did get some shots,” Panthers coach Ken Roberts said. “And we hit (four) in a row and took a lead. … Our team has a lot of spurts in them, just because we do rely on the 3 a little bit.”
The all-Wesco state quarterfinal was a rematch of Arlington’s 57-44 regular-season win over Snohomish on Jan. 24.
For most of the night, the two familiar foes kept one another in check with lockdown defense. Both teams finished below 36% shooting from the field.
“I’ve been in very few games against Ken Roberts (that) weren’t a battle,” Joe Marsh said. “He’s a great coach. He’s got a ton of experience down here. He’s got a great player in Ella and a nice supporting cast. … We knew we had to be prepared for a 32-minute battle.”
Arlington closed a low-scoring first half on an 8-0 run, blanking Snohomish over the final 4 1/2 minutes to take a 26-18 lead into the break. The Eagles then kept the Panthers at arm’s length for most of the third quarter, extending the margin to 36-25 on a 3-pointer by Villa with 2:35 left in the period.
Snohomish responded with a 9-0 run on a trio of 3-pointers, capped by a triple from Rodgers that sliced the deficit to 36-34 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
That remained the score until around the five-minute mark, when Marsh drove to the basket and converted a three-point play with a tough finish off the glass. She then stole the ensuing inbound pass and delivered a nice assist to Rork, who finished through a foul to make it 41-34 with 4:57 to go.
After the Eagles stretched the gap to double digits a couple minutes later, Snohomish went on its late 3-point shooting surge to seize a brief one-point lead.
But with clutch free throws, rebounds and defensive stops in the final minute, Arlington found a way to survive and advance.
“Defense, rebounding and free throws are the difference down here lots of times,” Joe Marsh said. “And that was definitely the case tonight.”
Snohomish dropped to the consolation bracket with the loss and will face ninth-seeded Lakeside-Seattle in a loser-out game at 2 p.m. Friday. With a win over Lakeside, the Panthers would secure their fourth state trophy in the past six state tournaments.
After Snohomish’s somewhat sloppy and turnover-filled first-round win over No. 12 seed Bonney Lake on Wednesday night, Roberts said he was pleased with how his team performed against Arlington.
“We did a pretty good job for the most part as far as our game plan, which is all you can ask,” Roberts said. “And so, I know we won yesterday, but you feel better as a coach after a game like this when you play better.
“Now (when) you play better and win, it obviously feels a lot better. And we had our chances. … But our execution was good (and we) followed a game plan. I’m happy with how our kids played.”