Crusaders ousted from Tri-districts

  • Charlie Laughtland<br>Enterprise writer
  • Thursday, February 28, 2008 9:49am

SHORELINE — A less determined bunch would have long since thrown in the towel. But that’s just not how the Shoreline Christian girls basketball team operates.

The Crusaders salvaged a forgettable start to the season by returning to the Class B Tri-district playoffs for the 20th consecutive year, tying Seattle Lutheran girls for the most appearances by a girls or boys team.

And though Shoreline Christian made an early exit from the 23rd annual double-elimination tournament, advancing to the postseason once again was a considerable feat for a team that was 0-9 entering Northwest B League play.

“A month and a half ago, not a person was thinking, ‘Hey, they’re going to go back to districts,’” Crusaders coach Stan De Yager said. “But we believed all the time once we got into league we could put ourselves in position.”

Kent View Christian ended Shoreline Christian’s season with a 64-56 comeback victory in a loser-out contest Feb. 22 at King’s High School. The Crusaders held a small lead for most of the first half but the Mustangs charged ahead with some red-hot shooting in the third quarter.

Katie Ray’s jumper off a Shoreline Christian turnover put Kent View Christian in front for good two minutes into the second half. The basket ignited a 9-0 run by the Mustangs that left them with a 37-28 cushion.

Kent View Christian was 9-for-13 from the field in the third period and took a 44-37 lead into the fourth quarter.

“They came out with a little more effort than we did in the third quarter,” De Yager said. “A little more emotion and more intensity. They built that seven-point lead fairly early.”

Shoreline Christian, the Northwest League’s third seed, drew within five points on three occasions in the third quarter and once more with 3:11 remaining in the game.

But the Mustangs, seeded second out of the Sea-Tac B League, hit nine free throws in the final three minutes to protect their lead.

“With the team we’ve got this year, you don’t want to be fighting an uphill battle,” De Yager said. “You want to have the lead and have the other team approaching you.”

Less than a minute into the fourth quarter, the Crusaders suffered a blow when sophomore post Brittany Van Hal picked up her fourth and fifth fouls.

De Yager switched to a four-guard lineup and Shoreline Christian (8-15 overall) stayed within single digits of the Mustangs (19-6) until the final minute.

“We’re so oriented to look inside first and then look out,” De Yager said. “We didn’t look in as much but in a sense it opened up our offense more and the kids handled it well.”

Junior forward Jill Schiffelbein scored 14 of her game-high 25 points in the first half, including eight of Kent View Christian’s 10 second-quarter points.

Point guard Kate Maxwell drained a 3-pointer at the 2:53 mark of the first quarter to give the Crusaders their first lead since the opening bucket.

The Mustangs pulled even twice in the last four minutes of the first half but Natasha De Yager answered with a pair of baskets to secure the Crusaders a 25-24 edge at the break.

One of Shoreline Christian’s four seniors, De Yager finished with 14 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals. Sarah Smart added 14 points for the Crusaders and Maxwell had 11.

“This was a real thrill to play this game. That’s what we were talking about with the team afterwards,” said De Yager, whose 39 Tri-district wins are the most by any girls or boys coach.

Even during the roughest stretches of the season, De Yager was astonished to find that the team’s positive outlook never wavered.

“Every practice they came out with their heads up high and a willingness to work,” he said. “They loved being together.”

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