KENNEWICK – There’s no substitute for experience and for University and Lewis and Clark girls basketball teams the semifinals of the 4A Eastern Regional playoffs Friday were a case of been there, done that.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Titans and Tigers will meet for the championship in Kennewick’s Toyota Center following easy victories over Mead and Shadle Park, respectively, in a pair of all-Greater Spokane League games that earned the winners trips to the State 4A tournament.
The hot-shooting Titans (22-2) blew to a 29-11 first-quarter lead and a 73-54 victory over Mead. The Tigers (22-2) used suffocating defense to beat Shadle 61-46. The two winners will meet in the regional final today at 3 p.m.
In loser-out games, Mead (19-6) plays Pasco and Shadle plays Moses Lake, at 11 a.m. Those winners play at 7 p.m. for the region’s third state berth.
Pasco (22-2), after seeing an 18-point lead reduced to one, eliminated Walla Walla 53-49 in one survivor game. Moses Lake (21-3) held Wenatchee to 3-of-36 shooting through three quarters in its 48-34 loser-out triumph. Carly Noyes had 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocked shots.
U-Hi 73, Mead 54: There was no stopping Angie Bjorklund and Dara Zack, career-long impact players in their fourth successive regional tournaments.
Between them they totaled 51 of the Titans’ 73 points and combined for 22 rebounds. Bjorklund also had seven assists.
Bjorklund’s scorching start included 17 of her game-total 25 points in the first quarter and assists on three other baskets as U-Hi built its big early lead.
Zack, a warrior on the boards and effective away from the basket in the game, added eight points at the quarter and finished with 16 by intermission. They also had all but two of U-Hi’s rebounds.
“Coach brought up yesterday how we’re a lot more experienced and experience really pays off, especially in a regional tournament,” Zack said. “And the passes were just unbelievable tonight. Everyone’s passes were right on the money.”
Mead made a run midway through the second quarter as Kelli Valentine scored nine points and cut a 21-point deficit to 13. Bjorklund’s only basket of the second quarter, coming with 3 seconds remaining, made it 44-27 and the Panthers never got closer.
U-Hi’s biggest lead in the second half was 73-46 on Zack’s final basket and 26th point. She also finished with 14 rebounds.
“The playoffs,” said U-Hi coach Mark Stinson, “are like anything else a function of experience. If you’ve been there before you feel more comfortable and it helps your confidence when you’re shooting.”
When you have Bjorklund and Zack on the floor, that helps. The Titans were hot, making just less than 60 percent of their first-half attempts. They wound up at 52 percent for the game, including 8 for 21 on 3-pointers.
Mead coach Regan Drew wasn’t so sure it was her team’s lack of experience that hurt in their first semifinal with her as coach.
“I know they shot really well (just less than 60 percent for the first half),” she said. “And I thought we came out flat. We didn’t come out with the energy we needed in a game like this.”
She added that Mead was reactionary when it should have been assertive. As a result, the Panthers made just 35 percent of their attempts. Valentine finished with 13 points and Alysha Green had 10.
LC 61, Shadle 45: The Tigers may not have received big games from some of its big names, said coach Jim Redmon, but depth made up for it.
“At this time of year you have to have some depth and I felt kids who have played roles all year stepped up tonight,” Redmon said. “And obviously, Lyndi’s shooting was tremendous for us tonight.
Lyndi Seidensticker made four 3-pointers, two in each half, and reserve Kiki January added two others in the first half to help the Tigers pull away.
LC’s signature defense produced a number of turnover baskets as well, helping turn an early 8-2 deficit into a 22-13 lead 2 minutes into the second quarter. Although Shadle closed to within two points with just less than 4 minutes to go, Seidensticker and January banged down 3-pointers, January’s with 3 seconds remaining, to push the lead back up to 34-24 at halftime.
Seidensticker added two more in the third quarter as the Tigers lead increased to 50-29 with 1:35 remaining.
Shadle’s early lead included a basket and four free throws by Lexie Pettersen and she scored again in the quarter to make it 13-8. She finished the game with 15 points.
The Tigers ran off the next 14 points, mainly off turnovers. The defense shut down Shadle scoring leader Lexi Bishop, but Nicole Cantu took up some of the slack with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
Katelan Redmon finished with 16 points for LC, Brittany Kennedy had 12 points and seven steals and Seidensticker finished with 14 points.
“You’ve got to play until the end and that’s what we did,” said Seidensticker. “We knew they had beaten us before, but you just come out every game, play four quarters and hope you come out with a victory.”