Arlington’s Jenna Villa makes a jump shot. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Arlington’s Jenna Villa makes a jump shot. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Arlington girls soar past Kelso and into 3A state quarters

The Eagles rout Kelso 76-45 in a state regional and earn a bye into next week’s state quarterfinals.

EVERETT — The Arlington girls basketball team sure looks ready for the Tacoma Dome.

And with an emphatic rout Friday night, the Eagles moved one step closer to the ultimate prize.

Jenna Villa scored 27 points, Keira Marsh added 20 points and third-seeded Arlington soared past sixth-seeded Kelso 76-45 in a Class 3A non-elimination state regional game at Everett Community College.

With the victory, the Eagles earned a first-round bye for next week’s Hardwood Classic and advanced to Thursday’s state quarterfinals.

“It’s so advantageous just to win this game today,” Arlington coach Joe Marsh said. “We can relax for a couple days, see who we’re gonna play and just be ready for Thursday. … So it’s just a nice relief for us.”

Led by the one-two punch of Villa and Marsh, the Eagles (19-2) were firing on all cylinders against the Greater St. Helen’s League 3A champions.

The Eagles seamlessly moved the ball and executed their halfcourt offense to precision. They used their high-pressure defense to ignite their lethal transition attack. And for a large chunk of the night, they seemingly scored at will.

Arlington led 23-13 after the first quarter, 45-23 at halftime and 64-31 late in the third quarter.

“We came out ready to go tonight,” Joe Marsh said. “I was really happy about that.”

Villa delivered a masterful performance, scoring all 27 of her points before exiting the game with just under two minutes left in the third quarter.

The ultra-skilled 6-foot-2 junior guard drained three 3-pointers. She drove to the hoop for several more baskets. She finished strong inside, including a sequence of back-to-back three-point plays off putbacks.

And when Kelso (17-5) collapsed on her, Villa dished the ball to her teammates for several assists.

“She’s incredible,” Joe Marsh said. “She’s really hard to guard. If you don’t get on her to 28 feet, she’ll shoot it. And if you go get her, she’s gonna go by you. And she’ll finish. And she makes her free throws. And she finds her teammates.

“She’s a matchup nightmare in high school,” he added. “And it makes us better offensively all the way around, because it frees up some of those other kids to get some easy looks.”

Keira Marsh also scored all 20 of her points in the first three quarters, including 14 in the first half. The standout senior guard opened the game with a crafty drive to the hoop, scored four transition buckets and sank a pair of 3-pointers.

Sophomore guard Samara Morrow added nine points and freshman forward Kierra Reese chipped in eight for Arlington, which went unbeaten in Wesco 3A/2A and district tournament play. The Eagles finished 9 of 24 from beyond the arc, with five players hitting at least one 3-pointer.

“We just did a really good job of sharing the ball,” Joe Marsh said. “That’s the thing I’m happy about. Jenna and Keira have been leading us all year, but neither one of those two are afraid to pass the ball to their teammates.”

Lexi Grumbois scored a team-high 10 points for Kelso and Natalie Fraley added nine.

Fraley, a Division I-bound Utah State University signee, appeared to injure her left leg on a collision near the end of the first half. The star senior received attention on the floor for several minutes and had to be helped off the court. She didn’t return to the game.

With the loss, Kelso will play either No. 11 seed Everett or No. 14 seed Hermiston in a first-round Hardwood Classic game next Wednesday.

Arlington, meanwhile, will await its opponent for Thursday’s quarterfinals. The Eagles will face either No. 5 seed Snohomish, No. 12 seed Bonney Lake or No. 13 seed Gig Harbor.

“It’s a big relief for us to just have that extra day to focus on what we need to do,” Villa said.

“I feel very confident in where we’re going,” she added. “I think we can go all the way.”

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