TACOMA — The Arlington girls basketball team prides itself on being balanced and deep.
A handful of different players on the Eagles’ squad are capable of knocking down shots when Arlington needs points.
“I think that’s our greatest strength is our depth and our ability to have different people step up at different moments,” Eagles coach Joe Marsh said.
Down 49-48 with a berth in the semifinals of the Class 3A Hardwood Classic on the line, and the bright lights of the Tacoma Dome shining down, there was no doubt in Marsh’s mind that junior guard Hailey Hiatt was going to have the ball in her hands with Arlington’s season on the line.
Hiatt caught an inbounds pass at the left elbow with 11.1 seconds to go, pivoted right into one dribble and faded to her right for a pull-up jumper that bounced off the rim, hit the backboard and bounced twice more off the hoop before falling with 6.1 seconds left to secure the Eagles a 50-49 over Shorecrest in a 3A Hardwood Classic quarterfinal matchup Thursday.
“My team just had total confidence in me, and at the end of the day, that gave me the most confidence in this whole gym,” Hiatt said. “We just put in that play and got two huge shots off it (tonight). I knew it was gonna work. We played basketball and made a play, and I got the shot.”
Hiatt’s game-winning bucket capped a tense finish between the Wesco 3A/2A foes, who split a pair of matchups earlier this season.
Arlington took its first lead of the final period at 48-47 with 47 seconds left when junior Abbey Hassing delivered a pass over the top of the Scots’ defense to find Hiatt cutting to the hoop for a layup. Shorecrest’s Leila Hosn answered right back with a right-handed runner from just in front of the hoop for 49-48 lead with 18 seconds to go.
That’s when Marsh called timeout and drew up the play for Hiatt.
“Hailey’s just so confident in her shot,” Marsh said. “She makes a great move and it bounces off the rim a couple times and falls. That’s what the state tournament is all about. Outstanding.”
Hiatt finished with a game-high 17 points and three steals. Makenzie Gage added 15 points and Jenna Villa eight for the Eagles.
Shorecrest’s Sydney VanNess recorded a team-high 14 points and nine rebounds and Amanda Lee tacked on 12 points and Hosn chipped in 11.
The Scots opened the game on an 11-4 run and led for much of the contest while making a concerted effort to slow the pace and keep the Eagles’ high-octane offense at bay.
“We had a battle,” Shorecrest coach Carlos Humphrey said. “We executed the game plan and just fell a little short.”
Arlington shot just 14 of 42 from the field and 4 of 18 from beyond the arc, but the Eagles were able get points at the foul line as they knocked down 18 of 23 free-throw attempts to just 12 of 19 for Shorecrest.
Arlington’s stellar free-throw shooting helped spark a 10-0 second-quarter run that gave the Eagles their first lead of the game. Arlington knocked down 8 of 9 foul shots during that stretch.
As Arlington kept getting to the line, the fouls started to mount for the Scots. Lee and standout post Kiana Lino each fouled out with just over two minutes to go, and senior Maura Weaver shortly followed.
“That would affect any team that’s gonna lose like two of their top players down the stretch of a very intense game,” Humphrey said. “That second half seemed to be very quick-whistled. We could never get a flow because of that. We had three kids foul out. So we gotta be more disciplined, moving our hands and feet. We just gotta make adjustments somehow. It’s a tough one to take.”
The Eagles (23-2) advance to a semifinal matchup at 9 p.m. Friday against No. 9 Garfield, which beat No. 2 Bethel late Thursday.
“These girls are hungry this year, and our demeanor today was great coming into this game. Last year, we were kind of just excited to be here,” Marsh said referring to his team’s exit in the first round last season. “This year, we came here to win, and there was no quit tonight. We didn’t hang our heads. We couldn’t get over the hump. It took us forever. We’d get a lead and we couldn’t hold it. We just never quit, and they just kept fighting. That’s what I love about this team. There’s a lot of heart and a lot of fight.”
The Scots (22-4) face Bethel in a consolation game at 2 p.m. Friday.