TACOMA — For much of the night, it looked like the Lake Stevens girls basketball team would be the one in the finals, giving Vikings fans their first championship game today.
It wasn’t to be as Arlington celebrated the 66-64 overtime triumph in the all-Wesco 4A semifinal Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
“(Arlington coach) Joe (Marsh) and I talked about how cool it was for our league,” Lake Stevens coach Randall Edens said.
The Vikings raced to a lead — as large as 12 points — over Arlington with 6:24 to go in the third quarter. It was the biggest lead of the game by either team.
Even as the Eagles slowly chipped away and took their first lead since 2-0 with 4:42 to go in the fourth quarter, the Vikings were confident. Even as the Eagles took a 56-53 lead with 7.1 seconds to go after a big 3-point shot by Lindsay Brown, Brittney Pahukoa wasn’t worried.
The Vikings senior may not have been everyone’s first choice to take the do-or-die shot. Her twin Brooke led all scorers with 28 points and teammate Alex Briggs had made three 3-pointers already.
“She’s done the pull-up in transition before,” Edens said of Brittney’s shot that sent the game to overtime. “When that was a third of the way there, I knew it was going down.”
Brooke took the ball first, but was fouled with 3.3 seconds to go. On the ensuing inbound, Arlington let Brittney race down the court and get a good look at a three from the top of the key, avoiding fouling the Vikings senior.
“I practiced dribbling under pressure and stopping at the 3-point line and taking that last 3,” Brittney said. “I practiced enough times and I wanted it so bad that it went in.”
The swish sent the Lake Stevens faithful into hysterics and swung all the momentum going into the extra period. It was Brittney’s only 3-pointer on five tries in the game.
Lake Stevens won the tip and it looked like the Vikings had regained control of the game, getting three easy layup attempts in the first minute of the extra period, but all of them rimmed out.
Brittney’s fifth foul with 3:03 to go was the end of the Vikings’ momentum.
“She’s a huge difference-maker,” Edens said. “You can’t fault her for the effort. That’s just how it goes sometimes.”
It was the first time in a long time that the Vikings, who had won five consecutive loser-out games, played without their point guard. Brittney’s four rebounds were third best on the team to go with her 10 points — eight in the second half — and she added a team-high in steals and assists with three apiece.
“It’s hard because you have such a huge moment like that at the end of regulation,” Edens said. “You kind of feel like you are going to find a way.”
Without Brittney they couldn’t. Lake Stevens got just six points from someone not named Pahukoa in the second half and overtime, and Arlington hung on in the rubber match after the teams split the regular-season series with each team trading convincing wins.
Arlington advances to the final and Lake Stevens plays the loser Mount Rainier at 1 p.m. today for third place.
“It might be tough to bounce back (today), but we’ll try to pump them up as best we can,” Edens said. “Before the game we said, ‘Regardless of what happens tonight, win or lose, you are playing for a trophy tomorrow,’ so everything is gravy at this point. We’ll be ready to go.”
The Vikings were disappointed but happy to still be playing on the last day of the season and still shooting for beating the team’s best finish — fourth place.
“I’ll take a third-place trophy,” Brittney said. “If you were to tell me at the beginning of the year, ‘Would you take placing third?’ I’d take that any day. So I’m happy.”