EVERETT — The Everett girls basketball team was oh-so-close to its first Tacoma Dome trip in more than a quarter-century.
But with a heartbreaking sequence in the final minute, the Seagulls’ dreams were crushed in agonizing fashion.
Izzy Simmons scored a game-tying layup with 30 seconds left and then banked in a game-winning floater at the buzzer, lifting No. 14 seed Hermiston to a 53-51 win over No. 11 seed Everett in a Class 3A loser-out state regional game Saturday afternoon at Everett Community College.
“We didn’t do well down the stretch,” first-year Seagulls coach Darrell McNeal said. “We didn’t take care of the basketball. We didn’t rebound. We didn’t stop them. We didn’t defend. (And) they executed well.”
It was a brutal finish to a milestone season for Everett.
The Seagulls (12-8) had won 10 of their past 12 games and were making their first state regional appearance since 2013. And it was just their second state appearance since 1996, when they last earned a trip to the Tacoma Dome for the Hardwood Classic.
But in the immediate aftermath of a crushing loss like this one, McNeal said it was tough to put into perspective all they had accomplished this year.
“There’s not much to say,” McNeal said of what he told his team after the game. “It was a good season. (We did) some spectacular things. But it’s hard to talk to them when they’re full of tears and they’re upset.
“It’s something that, when we get back together and talk and address the season, it’s (easier) to do then. After a loss like this, it’s hard.”
Everett led for nearly the entire game, using its tenacious full-court press to frustrate Hermiston (16-10) for much of the afternoon. The Seagulls were up by as many as 11 points in the third quarter and held a 49-44 lead with three minutes to play.
But down the stretch, Everett went cold.
And Simmons heated up for the Bulldogs.
Simmons, a freshman guard, scored 12 of her team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter — including seven points in the final three minutes as Hermiston closed the game on a 9-2 run.
With just under three minutes to play, Simmons drained a 3-pointer to cut Everett’s lead to 49-47. Soon after, fellow Hermiston freshman Ellie Heideman got open on a slip cut and made a layup to even the score.
Senior forward Ella Sylvester answered on Everett’s next possession, hitting a short jumper to give the Seagulls a 51-49 edge with 1:47 to go.
Everett held its two-point lead into the final minute. But after the Seagulls missed a tough shot, Simmons weaved downcourt and slid past a defender in the paint for a game-tying layup with 30 seconds remaining.
Everett then tried to push the ball upcourt, but committed a turnover. Hermiston, with a chance to hold the ball for the final shot, called a timeout with 13.8 seconds left and dialed up the game-winning play.
Simmons inbounded the ball from the right sideline, ran to the left side of the court and then floated back to the right perimeter to receive a left-to-right pass. Immediately after getting the ball, she dribbled right and drove past a defender.
As Simmons neared the paint, another defender came out to help. But Simmons coolly lofted a tough floater over the help defender and off the glass, banking in the game-winner to send the Bulldogs into a frenzied celebration.
“Hats off to them,” McNeal said. “They executed and they scored. We didn’t score in that fourth quarter.”
Senior guard Katelyn Heideman added 13 points for Hermiston, senior post Bailey Young scored 12 points and Ellie Heideman finished with nine.
With the victory, the Bulldogs advance to next week’s 3A Hardwood Classic and will face No. 6 seed Kelso in a first-round matchup.
It will be the first Hardwood Classic appearance for Hermiston, an eastern Oregon school that joined the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association in 2018 due to challenging travel logistics stemming from its lack of proximity to other Oregon schools.
Sophomore guard Alana Washington led Everett with 16 points. Sylvester, a four-year starter, added 13 points for the Seagulls.
“We wanted to give them a good experience, and that’s something I did hopefully,” McNeal said of his team’s four seniors. “But we couldn’t get them to the dome. … We didn’t get them to Tacoma.”