BOTHELL — With an 18-point lead early in the fourth quarter, things were looking rosy for the Lynnwood girls basketball team.
As it turned out, there were still some thorny moments ahead for the Royals.
But against a Mount Spokane team that battled gamely to the end, Lynnwood hung on for a 57-46 victory on Saturday night in a Class 3A regional playoff game at Bothell High School. The outcome clinches a place for the Royals in next week’s Hardwood Classic at the Tacoma Dome, the team’s fourth straight appearance.
Lynnwood, which is riding a 16-game winning streak, will play a loser-out game vs. Gig Harbor at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday for the chance to advance to the state quarterfinals.
“I’m so excited for the girls, the seniors especially,” said first-year Royals coach Brent Hudson. “It’s been a long (successful) thing they’ve been a part of and it would’ve been difficult for them not to get there.
“To know we’ve done that is fantastic, but we’re not done,” he added.
After sparring with Mount Spokane through the early minutes, Lynnwood went in front to stay with a 9-0 scoring burst midway through the first period. The Wildcats rallied to pull within one to start the second quarter, and the teams traded baskets before the Royals put together another string of nine unanswered points, on their way to a 29-23 halftime margin.
Lynnwood started to the pull away in the third quarter, and the lead reached a high of 18 points, 48-30, on a Kaprice Boston free throw early in the final period. But at that point Mount Spokane started cutting into the deficit, mostly by causing havoc with a spirited full-court press that led to a burst of offensive momentum.
“Mount Spokane is so tough,” Hudson said. “We knew they could always shoot themselves back into the game. We told the girls all week, ‘If you rest for a moment, they will just come right back.’ We knew they were tough and they played tough, but our girls just fought through it.”
Early in the fourth quarter, he added, “we had a little bit of a struggle taking care of the ball. … Their press got a little more aggressive and we weren’t consistent in the way that we ran our press break, so sometimes people were out of place a little bit. But we talked (during timeouts) and cleaned that up. And when we were in the right spots, we were fine.”
Boston scored Lynnwood’s last field goal on a layin with 4½ minutes remaining, but Mount Spokane countered with an 8-0 run to pull within 50-46 with 2:42 to play. But the Royals tightened their defense down the stretch and converted seven free throws the rest of the way for a final 11-point margin.
Lynnwood had only five players score, but three were in double figures. Boston, a senior forward, led the way with 21 points, while senior center Kelsey Rogers added 20 and senior guard Reilly Walsh had 12.
The 6-foot-1 Rogers had a big game in the middle at both ends of the court. She scored 14 points in the first half and forced the Wildcats to use a double-team to deny her the ball. On the defensive end, she had several blocks when Mount Spokane players tried to attack the basket.
“She was so tough,” Hudson said. “I told her, ‘They’re going to be physical. They’re smaller than you are, so they’re going to be physical and you have to recognize that you’re just going to have to bang all night. So be strong with it.’ She hit some huge baskets and was just consistent throughout the whole game.”