PUYALLUP — Trailing by 13 points at halftime and eight points after three quarters, the Snohomish girls basketball team pulled off a thrilling comeback victory on Friday night, edging Lincoln of Tacoma 41-39 in overtime of a Class 3A regional playoff game at Puyallup High School.
The Panthers had already clinched a spot in next week’s Hardwood Classic at the Tacoma Dome, but this victory means they will skip a loser-out first-round game on Wednesday and instead go right to a quarterfinal game at 12:15 p.m. Thursday. Snohomish is assured of playing at least two and possibly three games at the Hardwood Classic.
And all because the Panthers refused to buckle after a woeful first half against Lincoln. As Snohomish coach Ken Roberts pointed out, “Our kids never quit.”
The Panthers nabbed an early 6-2 lead against Lincoln, but at that point the Abes abruptly and decisively swung the game’s momentum. Over the final 12 minutes of the first half, Lincoln went on a 21-4 scoring burst, capped by an off-balance layin by guard Faith Brantley that dropped in at the halftime buzzer.
Lincoln is “probably as quick and physical as any team we’ve played all year,” Roberts said. The Abes turned up the defensive pressure midway through the first quarter when “they figured out what we were doing (on offense). They really got physical with our cutters and we didn’t get many looks.”
Behind 23-10 at halftime, the Panthers regrouped in the locker room. Roberts made some defensive adjustments and the team came out ready to battle in the second half.
“It goes back to last year a little bit,” Roberts explained. “We were down 12 or more points in four games last year, and we came back and won three of those games. The kids don’t give up. They just keep playing. They get back to fundamentals of blocking out, passing, rebounding and playing defense, and we give ourselves a chance.”
At halftime, said Snohomish senior guard Katie Brandvold, “we weren’t scared or intimidated that we were down. We kept it under control, and we knew that instead of playing their game we had to take it back into our hands. … We were like, ‘Why not win?’”
The Panthers chipped away at the deficit, outscoring Lincoln by five points in the third period and eight in the fourth. Snohomish went on a late 7-0 run to lead 38-35 in the final half-minute, but Brantley swished a 3-pointer from the left baseline with 10 seconds remaining to tie the score and the Panthers were unable to get off a shot in the closing moments.
But that would be the only field goal Snohomish would allow in the last four minutes of regulation and the four minutes of overtime. The Abes struck first with a free throw in OT, but the Panthers countered with a little runner from the key by sophomore forward Kyra Beckman and a free throw by sophomore guard Maya Duchesne to seize a two-point lead.
Lincoln had a chance to tie the score with three seconds remaining when forward Morticia McCall went to the line for two free throws. She missed the first and then missed the second deliberately, but Snohomish sophomore forward Courtney Perry snagged the rebound and time expired.
“We were able to pull one out,” Roberts said. “We had to match their physicality, and that was the biggest difference in the second half. We stepped it up on that end defensively and rebounding wise.”
The Panthers will be making a return trip to the Tacoma Dome. A year ago, Snohomish reached the Class 4A title game before losing to Central Valley, 57-48.
“I told (the players) last summer that I was going to coach them as if we were going to state (again this season),” Roberts said. “You’re pushing kids that aren’t sure they’re capable of it early on, but they bought into it. They’ve wanted me to push them and it’s been awesome to watch.”