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Freeman girls reach to play for State 1A championship

YAKIMA – Surviving a game that coach Ashlee Taylor-Nimri termed “our worst team basketball since midseason” the Freeman Scotties powered past Bellevue Christian, in the SunDome on Thursday, 47-39, in the semifinals of the State 2A girls basketball tournament.

The win assures Freeman (26-1) of a chance to defend its title. The Scotties will play 1A powerhouse Lynden Christian (24-3) in the title game today at 3 p.m. Lynden Christian has won nine championships but Freeman derailed a shot at a 10th last season, toppling the Lyncs 50-32 in the semifinals.

A last-second loss to Seattle Christian in the 2009 semifinals is the only blemish on Taylor’s coaching record in the SunDome. The Scotties finished third that year.

“I told the girls I thought tonight was the worst team basketball in a long time,” Taylor-Nimri said. “Probably since midseason.”

The third-year coach did say she may have detected a silver lining.

“I think this will be a wake-up call, especially for our freshman. Some of them were very tentative tonight.”

On a night where leading scorer MacKenzie Taylor scored just three points – but had 15 rebounds and five assists – Alyssa Maine contributed 16 points and Emily Paukert added 12. The pair combined for 15 of Freeman’s 27 first-half points as the Scotties established an early 10-point lead but couldn’t find a way to put the resilient Vikings away.

Freeman dashed to a 19-9 lead in the first period, only to see the Vikings close the margin to three points midway through the second period. The Scotties opened an eight-point lead in the third period and saw that closed to three and established a second 10-point cushion early in the fourth period. The Vikings got no closer than six points after that.

Part of the issue was rebounding – Freeman lost that battle 42-31 thanks in large part to the 12 boards grabbed by 6-foot-2 Maren Haines.

The Vikings turned 15 offensive rebounds into 14 points.

“We let her get 12 and two other girls had eight,” Taylor-Nimri said while shaking her head.

The Scotties defense did its part, forcing 27 turnovers and holding the Vikings to just 34 percent shooting from the floor.

But Freeman’s cold shooting¸ 35.4 percent from the floor and 50 percent from the free-throw line, provided a life preserver for the opponents not usually seen in Freeman victories.