SHORELINE — As the only freshman on the Shorecrest girls basketball team, Mary Tseng tolerates some good-natured ribbing now and then.
One of the team’s pregame rituals is to ask the soft-spoken forward what “grade” she’s in. Or more accurately, what “grade” her performance that night will express.
Lately, Tseng has elevated her game enough notches to be considered an honorary upperclassmen.
The 5-foot-9 sparkplug’s torrid shooting display against Shorewood in a Western Conference 4A South Division contest last week lifted Shorecrest to its sixth consecutive victory over the crosstown Thunderbirds.
Tseng drilled back-to-back 3-pointers in the first 1:25 of the second half to key a 14-4 run. She hit two more in the fourth to squelch Shorewood’s final comeback effort, as the Scots prevailed 50-45 Feb. 7 at Shorecrest High School.
“What a great opportunity for a freshman to step up and be a bigtime player in a bigtime game,” Scots coach Don Dalziel said.
Despite missing more than six minutes of the second half due to foul trouble, Tseng sank her first four attempts from 3-point range and finished with 12 points to match her season-high.
“After the first three, I felt like I got my stroke,” Tseng said. “Coach started calling plays and said to get the ball to me.”
It wasn’t until recently that Tseng added long-range shooting to her repertoire.
“This is my first year to start shooting threes,” she said. “I was horrible at the beginning.”
“Mary’s had the green light (to shoot) since day one,” added Dalziel. “It’s just she’s finally relaxed enough to know what she’s capable of doing.”
Shorecrest and Shorewood exchanged the lead throughout the first half and took a 22-all tie into the break. The Scots led by as many as eight in the third period but Shorewood closed the quarter with an 8-2 burst and pulled ahead by two at the start of the fourth quarter on a pair of layins from Stephanie West.
That’s when Tseng checked back in and promptly sank a 3-pointer with 5:50 to go to give Shorecrest (11-5 league, 12-6 overall) the lead for good.
“She deserves to have a night like that and some glory because she’s a big part of what’s got us this far,” Dalziel said. “It was her turn to step up and take some of the pressure off everybody else in a very closely battled game.”
The defeat was the fifth straight for the Thunderbirds (3-11, 4-12), who nearly tied the game again in the final minute. Senior Nanda McCormick scored Shorewood’s last five points and led all scorers with 14 points but her final 3-pointer rimmed off.
“I felt like we were in it all the way,” T-birds coach Brandon Glasser said. “Even our last play to get Nanda a three. We wanted to run a double screen and she got open. It was a good look. It looked good.”
Three of Shorewood’s last five losses were by five points or less.
“It doesn’t always bounce your way and we’ve felt a lot of that this year,” Glasser said. “But that’s the game. You’ve got to be happy to be out there playing. We’re going to finish the season strong no matter what.”
Tseng averaged nine points in Shorecrest’s three victories last week. The Scots shrugged off a sluggish start to beat Jackson 55-48 Feb. 8 on the road for their fourth win in five games.
Shorecrest trailed by five with three minutes to go before rallying. Haley Martin scored a game-high 21 points for the Scots, Whitney Michiels added 13 and Erin Farquhar had nine.
Against Shorewood, Farquhar logged 31 minutes and posted her second straight 19-rebound outing.
“That’s a lot of minutes for a 6-foot kid that gets beat up in the post on a consistent basis,” Dalziel said.
Shorecrest was scheduled to face Kamiak Feb. 12 and will wrap up the regular season at home tonight against top-ranked Meadowdale.
The Scots started the week as the No. 5 seed for the Northwest District 3A playoffs but could climb as high as third depending on the outcome of this week’s games.
The top four seeds host first-round games Feb. 21. The remainder of the tournament moves to Skagit Valley Community College in Mount Vernon Feb. 24, 26, 28 and March 1.
“We need to finish with some momentum with the games we have left,” Dalziel said.