MILL CREEK – The Monroe High School girls basketball team already had one slip against Lake Stevens in the Class 4A Northwest District Tournament. The Bearcats weren’t about to let it happen again.
The Bearcats avenged their opening-round loss and completed their remarkable run to the state tournament, defeating the Vikings 54-36 Saturday at Jackson High School.
Monroe (23-2), which won four straight loser-out games in eight days, earned the district’s second and final berth to the state tournament. The Bearcats begin the state tournament Wednesday at the Tacoma Dome against an opponent to be determined today.
Lake Stevens finished its season 15-10.
Monroe, the No. 1 seed from the Western Conference North Division, was upset by Lake Stevens, the North No. 5, 38-32 in the first round, forcing the Bearcats onto a long and difficult road to get to state. But Monroe responded as well as possible, knocking off Marysville-Pilchuck, Edmonds-Woodway and Oak Harbor before topping Lake Stevens on Saturday.
“We’re excited,” Monroe coach Alan Dickson said. “That’s four straight tough playoff games. Even when it’s teams you’ve beat during the year, everyone’s coming out fighting. I told the kids they’ll remember this for the rest of their lives whenever they face adversity and a tough road.”
Chelsey Zimmerman scored 23 points and sank four 3-pointers to lead Monroe. But it was the Bearcats’ defense that was the biggest factor. Monroe, which shot just over 20 percent from the field in its loss to Lake Stevens, played the type of hard-nosed, man-to-man defense that made it irrelevant whether the Bearcats shot so poorly again.
Monroe held Lake Stevens without a field goal in the first quarter, finished with 13 steals and held the Vikings to 25 points through the middle of the fourth quarter, after which Monroe cleared its bench.
“We stuck to our game plan,” Dickson said. “We wanted our defense to be so good that if we didn’t hit anything we’d still have a chance to win. We were able to do that.
“Dani Drivstuen and Sarah Morton did a good job on their point guard (Brittni Estes), forcing her where she didn’t want to go,” Dickson added. “Then our defense rotated over. I don’t think they ever got into their offense.”
The Bearcats didn’t shoot the way they did in their loss to Lake Stevens, either. Just when it looked like Lake Stevens was going to get back into the game, cutting the lead to 31-20 early in the third quarter, Zimmerman hit 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions, pushing the lead to 20. The Bearcats were never again threatened.
Morton and Brittany Heilman each added nine points for the Bearcats and Drivstuen had nine rebounds and four steals.
“Monroe’s a good team,” Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said. “They came out and played with confidence, aggressiveness and in-your-face defense, which is what you need to do to advance in a winner-to-state game. We didn’t respond very well in the first half and it cost us. But they’re a great team. There’s a reason they’ve only lost two games and had an 18-game winning streak, and they had something to prove tonight.”
Katie Holloway and Kiana Fisher each scored eight points to pace Lake Stevens, which suffered a scare when senior forward Shawnta West was hit in the head with 4:24 remaining in the game and suffered symptoms of a concussion and breathing difficulties. After a 25-minute delay, West’s condition stabilized. She was taken from the court on a stretcher and transported to the Colby Campus of Providence Hospital for observation.
Lake Stevens-West 6, Mace 3, Holloway 8, Kelly 5, Fisher 8, Housden 2, LaPlante 4. Monroe-Heilman 9, Thompson 7, D. Drivstuen 4, Zimmerman 23, Morton 9, Moriarity 1, Tona 1. 3-point goals-Zimmerman 4, Heilman. Records-Monroe 23-2 overall, Lake Stevens 15-10.