TACOMA — Malia Smith is the ultimate zone breaker. And when the Glacier Peak High School girls basketball team was faced with a zone defense that took away its guards’ ability to create, the Grizzlies unleashed Smith to devastating effect.
Smith drained six 3-pointers, forcing Chiawana to abandon its preferred defense, and the Grizzlies defeated the Riverhawks 62-57 Thursday morning in the Class 4A state quarterfinals at the Tacoma Dome.
Glacier Peak (22-4), the No. 6 seed, advanced to face undefeated and top-seeded Woodinville at 3:45 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. It’s a rematch of the Wes-King Bi-District championship game the Falcons won 62-57 in overtime on Feb. 21.
Chiawana (23-4), the No. 4 seed, dropped into the consolation bracket, where the Riverhawks play Todd Beamer at 9 a.m. Friday.
Chiawana opened the game in a 2-3 zone, and the Riverhawks’ five starters are all tall with long arms. That prevented Glacier Peak guards Maya Erling and Aaliyah Collins from being able to create in the halfcourt offense.
But the Grizzlies immediately drew things up for Smith, who nailed three 3-pointers in the first quarter to help Glacier Peak build a lead. Smith hit her fourth trey of the game — and Glacier Peak’s seventh as a team — midway through the second quarter to make it 23-7 , and by the end of the half the Riverhawks had switched to a man-to-man defense.
“I love when teams play zone on us,” said Smith, who finished with 18 points. “I was ready to shoot. I think we came out really strong. Our first quarter has been struggling a little bit and we just knew we had to come out strong and with a lot of aggression.”
Chiawana stuck to its man-to-man defense in the second half, and while that slowed Glacier Peak’s long-range onslaught, it brought Erling and Collins back into play. Erling, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer who was held to three points in Glacier Peak’s first-round victory over Camas, scored 17 of her game-high 23 points in the second half. Collins tallied 11 of her 14 in the second half.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies succeeded in slowing down Chiawana star Malia Von Oelhoffen. Von Oelhoffen, a 6-foot-1 post and the daughter of former NFL defensive lineman Kimo Von Oelhoffen, is considered one of the best juniors in the country. She transferred from Tri-Cities Prep, where she led the Jaguars to the 2019 Class 2B state title. Therefore, Von Oelhoffen wasn’t on the Riverhawks’ roster when the Grizzlies scored their dramatic double-overtime victory over Chiawana in the first round of state last year.
But Glacier Peak’s Shaylin Sande, with Elyse Waldal providing relief, stuck to Von Oelhoffen like glue. Von Oelhoffen was held scoreless until midway through the second quarter. She finished with 15 points and shot 4-of-13 from the floor.
“We face-guarded her, me and Elyse, and tried to make sure she didn’t catch the ball,” Sande explained. “When she did, we tried to send another player so we could get the ball out of her hands.”
Chiawana didn’t go away, twice closing within three points in the second half, once midway through the third quarter and once midway through the fourth. Both times Smith responded by nailing long 3-pointers to push the lead back to six. Glacier Peak finished the game a scorching 11-for-21 (52 percent) from 3-point range.
“A lot of people say it’s hard to shoot in the Tacoma Dome,” Glacier Peak coach Brian Hill said. “I think what really helped is we got to play four games here last year. Our mentality coming in is this is just another gym to us, these are the hoops we’re going to shoot into, and we don’t let that factor into how we shoot. We just see the rim and take shots, and Malia knocked down some big ones today.”
Collins broke the defense down twice for layups late in the fourth quarter to push the Grizzlies’ lead to 60-49, and a pair of Chiawana baskets in the final seconds only served to trim the margin of victory.
Kylie Thorne finished with 18 points and eight rebounds for Chiawana. Delaney Pink chipped in with 12 points.
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