TACOMA — Arlington High School girls basketball coach Joe Marsh acknowledged that his youthful Eagles were perhaps a year ahead of schedule in qualifying for this year’s 3A state tournament.
With another year under their belts, don’t bet against the Eagles pulling out a game like this.
Arlington fell just short in its comeback attempt, falling 50-45 to the talented and experienced West Seattle Wildcats in the first round of the Hardwood Classic on Wednesday afternoon at the Tacoma Dome.
“If you’d told me at the beginning of the season we were going to get a league championship and go to the Tacoma Dome, I’d have said, ‘Well, maybe it might be a little early for that,’” Marsh said. “I’ve got a bunch of sophomores, a freshman, we’re really young and don’t really have any playoff experience. This is the kind of experience you pay for. We got to go down and play No. 1 Prairie last week in a regional round, we got to come here to Tacoma. This experience is going to pay off for us down the road, and that’s really all you can ask.”
Jasmine Gayles scored 23 points to lead ninth-seeded West Seattle (19-5), which advanced to face No. 2 Mt. Spokane in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
Hailey Hiatt scored 16 points and Josie Stupey added 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists for Arlington, which finished its season 17-7.
Arlington, a team comprised almost completely of sophomores, had its hands full against a veteran West Seattle squad that included a pair of NCAA Division I commits in Grace Sarver (Washington State) and Meghan Fiso (Michigan). The task became all the more difficult when the Eagles found themselves trailing by 10 late in the third quarter.
However, Arlington used its aggressive 2-3 zone defense to claw itself back into the game. The Eagles scored the final five points of the third quarter to stay within reach, then gradually chipped away in the fourth, with Hiatt’s 3-pointer making it a one-possession game at 46-44, and Stupey’s free throw getting Arlington within one with 1 minute, 20 seconds remaining.
Hiatt then took a charge, giving the Eagles the chance to take the lead. On the ensuing possession Keira Marsh’s runner rimmed in and out, and the Wildcats replied with Sarver setting up Anissa Babitu to make it a three-point contest.
The Eagles missed a 3-pointer, and Arlington was then called for what appeared to be a harsh intentional foul while trying to stop the clock. West Seattle received two shots and the ball, with Gayles making both shots, and that effectively ended the game.
“Like we’ve done all year, we scrapped back and made a game of it, and it was a great game down the stretch,” Marsh said. “So I’m just really proud of them. If a couple things go our way, if we hit a couple free throws, it might be a different game. We get an unfortunate call late, which was a game changer, and you hate to see the game end on something like that. But I’m just really proud of these kids.”