The championship was five days old and her team just hours away from its first regional basketball game, but Mead’s unfailingly optimistic coach Annette Wing was still bubbling.
“It’s so exciting as a first-year coach, it’s hard to sum it up,” she said. “The players worked hard and deserve the credit.”
Mead had finished third in league behind Ferris and Central Valley. Only one game and a handful of points, however, separated the trio.
During district competition Mead edged CV 56-53 and Ferris 51-50 after leading by 10 points at halftime.
“We went to district knowing we hadn’t reached our potential,” said Wing. “I’d known for a long time we were winning and not playing as well as we can. We decided at this point it was all or none.”
Six players returned from last year, including regulars Danielle Zelinski and Ali Bailey.
“The seniors were consistent for us,” said Wing. “Ali had pressure on her and did a great job battling. Danielle leads the team in assists.”
Staci Schuerman produced quietly, getting clutch points and rebounds.
“No one notices, but she helps you win,” said Wing. “She was probably the key in both the Ferris and CV games without a doubt.”
Another veteran, junior Morgan Bennett was “in many ways the backbone of the team,” said Wing.
She was the defensive specialist and came on the second half of the season offensively.
She also lauded the contributions of starting junior Becky Slater, sophomore Courtney Ferguson and senior Brandi Curry.
Ferguson, injured midway through the year, had 18 points, including four 3-pointers, against Ferris.
Curry is a first-year varsity player working her way up from C-squad and junior varsity. She helped beat CV with seven points.
“When it was time to play it was nice to have Courtney ready to go,” said Wing. “Curry is a story in herself. Everyone is doing their role.”
Wing’s was the two previous years in which she prepared herself to become Mead’s coach.
“When I was hired two years ago it was with that understanding,” she said. “The girls knew it, parents knew it and I developed those relationships. The transition was very smooth.”
She also belives in summer programs, spending last summer with the team.
Hopefully it will payoff, after a year’s absence, in a return to state, Mead’s domain in the 1990s with seven top five finishes including three championships.
The task facing the girls is difficult. The Panthers were upset 50-47 Tuesday night by Kennewick in their regional opener and need two wins in the Tri-Cities this weekend.
They face CV again Friday in a loser out game at 4 p.m. at Richland High and face a likely rematch with Ferris - or will play Big Nine champ Kamiakin - even if they beat the Bears.
“I’d love to see us reach it,” said Wing, “but whatever happens I’m proud of the girls.”
District 2A finals
Friday Lakeside High’s girls have qualified for their sixth-straight state tournament. But they’re not satisfied.
“We want to be the number one seed,” said coach Lisa Schultz. “It’s critical. We can’t just rest on what we’ve done.”
The Eagles play upstart Pullman, tied for sixth during the regular season but victors over Newport and Riverside last week. Game time is 7:15 p.m. at Mt. Spokane High.
Pullman’s win over Riverside forced the Rams into a game at 2:45 p.m. against Riverside for the district’s third and final state berth.
“About two weeks ago,” said Rams coach Chris Wren, “I was talking to other staff members and said Pullman shouldn’t be in a tie for sixth. Personnel-wise they are every bit as good as us.
“Maybe they lacked confidence early. They’re not lacking it anymore.”
Lakeside has placed in the last four state tournaments, but faces a somewhat different field.
Elma finished third in last year’s AA state tournament and has been averaging 92 points per game. The team has gone over 100 four times, including a 128-32 triumph.
One player, Jamie Craighead, is averaging 23.0 points, 9.6 assists and 9 steals per game. She has signed with the University of Washington.
Omak, which reached last year’s A semifinals and beat Lakeside in the game for third and sixth place, also returns.