TACOMA – Kennedy was impressive – and impressed.
The top-ranked Lancers from Burien completed a perfect season with a 50-43 win over Shadle Park in the championship game of the State 3A girls basketball tournament Saturday night in the Tacoma Dome.
Though the only time the Lancers (28-0) trailed was 2-0, they could never shake the Highlanders (22-7).
“They are really good – they came right at us,” tournament MVP Yaz Fuller said of Shadle. “They wouldn’t back down. They’re a good defensive team.”
Fuller made just 7 of 25 shots on her way to 20 points as the Lancers shot 39 percent from the field.
“The defense overall was amazing. (Fuller) hit some incredible shots,” Shadle coach Chad Dezellem said. “You can’t ask much more of Lindsay (Niemeier) and the help from her teammates. (Kennedy’s Aminah Williams) was tough inside.”
Williams, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, all from under the basket.
“It was a tough loss against a great team, but it’s tough to swallow,” said Niemeier, who made the all-tournament second team despite never scoring in double figures. “I’m so proud of my girls. We played so hard, we just came up short.”
The Highlanders held the Lancers to their lowest point total of the season and were only the second team to lose to them by less than 10 points.
The difference was experience and Fuller, whose last two points came on a back-breaking layup when she sliced through the line to make it 48-43 with 30 seconds left.
Shadle overcame a nine-point, first-half deficit and caught the Lancers at 29 midway through the third quarter. But Kennedy responded with eight quick points and led 42-32 early in the fourth quarter before the Highlanders made one last charge.
“Give Shadle Park a lot of credit,” Kennedy coach Tom Mummert said. “They’re a good ballclub. They’ll be back next year. Our girls weren’t going to let this get away.”
Kennedy went 24-3 last year, losing to Auburn Riverside in the championship.
“Our goal was to not let them have fast-break baskets and points after turnovers,” Dezellem said. “We didn’t meet that goal, obviously. If we had done that we would have won.”
The Highlanders hit just 8 of 15 free throws and shot 33 percent from the field.
“We normally shoot free throws better than we did and we had some wide-open 3s we didn’t stick either,” Dezellem said. “They’re a good team.”
“We played with a lot of heart,” said senior guard Tori Dezellem. “We never gave up. We gave it our best shot. I don’t think we hit the shots we could of and we didn’t get back on defense. That’s my job and we gave up a couple of easy baskets.”
Shadle’s only lead was 2-0 when sophomore Kendra Knutsen, who left the game with a knee injury early in the fourth quarter, scored an uncontested layup after the opening tip. The Lancers scored the next nine, on a Fuller 3-pointer and three straight baskets by Williams.
The lead reached nine before the Highlanders regrouped and closed within 17-11 at the end of the first quarter.
“We were just not ready,” said senior Bianca Pope, who was first-team all-tournament. “We had heart, we had desire, we had everything. We were just a little nervous, a little cautious. They’re an amazing team.
A 3-pointer from 5-9 freshman Aleisha Hathaway, who had eight points and nine rebounds, and a layup by Pope, who finished with 10 points, pulled Shadle within 19-17 early in the second quarter. Kennedy ran off seven straight over a 3-minute, 15-second span and led 29-22 at halftime.
Knutsen, Niemeier and sophomore Chelsea Chandler combined for the first seven points of the third quarter to tie the game. Then Williams sandwiched two inside baskets around a Fuller drive and Daidra Brown, also a first-team selection, stole the ball and made a layup for a 37-29 lead.