Stanwood’s Ellalee Wortham drives to the hoop during the 3A quarterfinal game against Mead on Thursday, March 2, 2023 in Tacoma, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Stanwood’s Ellalee Wortham drives to the hoop during the 3A quarterfinal game against Mead on Thursday, March 2, 2023 in Tacoma, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Stanwood girls bounced in 3A quarterfinals by Mead

The Spartans can’t overcome a 17-4 Panthers run in the third quarter of a 62-54 loss.

TACOMA — One quarter was the difference once again in the state quarterfinals for the Stanwood High School girls basketball team.

And once again it was the Mead Panthers who locked the Spartans down for a period and pulled away for a win and a berth in the semifinals.

Sixth-seeded Stanwood mustered just two buckets over the final 6-plus minutes of the third quarter as fourth-seeded Mead rattled off a 17-4 run to build a lead it would never relinquish on its way to a 62-54 victory in the Class 3A Hardwood Classic at the Tacoma Dome.

The Spartans also fell to the Panthers in last year’s quarterfinals, 52-33, after trailing 33-32 entering the final period.

“The girls played hard and they stuck together,” Stanwood coach Dustin Swanson said. “(Mead) hit a couple more shots. … But we were right there, especially at halftime it felt like we were in a good spot. That’s a good Mead team and maybe they had a little fresher legs from not playing yesterday.”

The Panthers (20-3) advance to face top-seeded Garfield in the state semifinals at 3:45 p.m. Friday. The Spartans (20-6) fall to the consolation bracket and face seventh-seeded Lakeside (Seattle) at 9 a.m. Friday.

Mead found itself trailing for the first time early in the third quarter after Stanwood senior Chloe Santeford swiped a steal and drove down the court for a layup and senior Vivenne Berrett tacked on another bucket in the paint off an assist from senior Tatum Brager for a 32-29 lead. But the Panthers started their run immediately after.

Mead’s standout junior guard Teryn Gardner knocked down a 3-pointer for the tie and put her team back ahead with a layup at the 5:49 mark. She added a pull-up jumper from the free-throw line and attacked the hoop for another layup before capping the 17-4 run with a smoothly stroked midrange shot for a 46-34 lead. Gardner scored 12 of the Panthers’ points during the run and finished with a game-high 29 points to go with eight rebounds, five assists and four steals in a complete effort.

“She can just do everything,” Swanson said. “If it’s not outside shots, she can attack the basket, get to the free-throw line and knock them down. She defends, too. She’s just a really good all-around player that has the total package.”

The Spartans chipped away at their deficit and pulled within 56-51 on a 3-pointer by Grace Walker. Mead senior Natalie Braun responded with a triple of her own but was matched by freshman Ellalee Wortham’s 3-ball that made it 56-51 Panthers with 1:22 left. But that’s as close as Stanwood would get. Gardner hit all six of her free throws in the final minutes to seal the win.

Berrett had 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocks, Wortham posted 16 points and two steals, Walker had 11 points, five rebounds and two steals, and Santeford chipped in five points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals.

Gardner poured in 20 of her game-high 29 in the second half, Braun had 12 points, freshman Reese Fredrick added eight points and freshman Addison Wells Morrison chipped in seven points, four rebounds and three assists.

Mead raced out to a 13-3 lead early in the first after knocking down its first three attempts from beyond the arc. The Spartans battled back and tied the game at 18 on Wortham’s 3-pointer from the corner that beat the first-quarter buzzer.

The Panthers regained the lead early in the second on a stepback 3 by Gardner and held a slim lead until the half. Walker’s 3-pointer cut Stanwood’s deficit to 29-28 entering the break.

Mead went on its run in the next period and created enough cushion to hold on through the end.

Stanwood can still guarantee itself a second consecutive state trophy with a win on Friday, which would move the Spartans to the fourth/sixth-place game.

“It’s a hard thing to do,” Swanson said of getting back to the state quarterfinals. “Wesco was good last year. It was even better this year. … I thought we did a great job through league and we’ve been battling and getting better. I’m just proud of the girls and it’s been a lot of fun to coach them, and I hope I’m coaching them for at least two more days.”

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