TACOMA – It’s a shot Sydney Emory will remember the rest of her life.
And the Central Valley senior wasn’t the first option on the Bears’ final play. Still, when Emory took a pass in the corner from Brooke Gallaway, instincts took over.
Emory squared up, fired a high-arcing shot that found the bottom of the net to give Central Valley its first lead of the game – and only lead it needed – with 4 seconds left as the Bears rallied to stun the Mount Rainier Rams 42-40 in the State 4A girls basketball tournament semifinals Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
“It just came natural,” Emory said of the game-winning shot. “It just felt like any other shot. It was like the whole world stood still. It felt nice when it came off my hand.”
CV (25-2) is back in the final for the first time since 2002. The Bears meet Skyview (26-30) of Vancouver Saturday night at 5.
Skyview kept it from being an all-Greater Spokane League final as the Storm handled Gonzaga Prep 63-50 in the other semifinal.
Gonzaga Prep (19-6) plays for third and fifth places against Mount Rainier (26-2) at 11 Saturday morning.
Central Valley 42, Mount Rainier 40: The win seemed as improbable as the game wore on as a shot possibly falling for the poor-shooting Bears.
The Bears found themselves trailing by 11 points in the second quarter, but fought back within 28-23 by halftime.
Then CV had a horrendous start to the second half. The Bears missed their first 14 shots – seven on one possession.
What gave CV a chance was defense. The Bears finally got things going in a better direction the final 2:50 of the third as they finished the period on a 9-0 surge to tie it at 32-32 going into the fourth.
While most offensive possessions had to feel like pulling teeth for CV, the defense came through. The Bears held the Rams to 12 points in the second half. Brittany McPhee, who had 15 in the first half, had just two the final two periods.
Jordan McPhee got a putback to give the Rams a 40-36 lead with 4:50 to go.
CV’s Katie Estey trimmed it to 40-39 when she buried a 3-pointer at the 3:31 mark.
The Bears had four straight possessions where they could have gotten their first lead, but couldn’t convert.
The Rams missed three foul shots in the final 1:03 including a 1-and-1.
CV called timeout to set up a play, but Estey fired up a 24-foot 3-pointer with 42 seconds to go after the play broke down.
After the Rams missed the front end of the 1-and-1, CV called another timeout with nine seconds remaining.
The play that coach Freddie Rehkow drew up never materialized. Instead, Gallaway, who was supposed to drive in hopes of at least drawing a foul and free throws, tossed it to Emory, who didn’t hesitate to fire away.
“That’s one she’s going to remember for the rest of her life,” Rehkow said of Emory’s shot. “If we win (tonight) that’s going to be in her memory bank forever. I couldn’t ask for a better kid to hit that shot. That’s a shot she deserves right there.”
CV shot 23 percent from the field, making just 14 of 60 attempts.
“If you were to ask me if we could shoot about 25 percent, if that, and be in the championship game I would have said there is no way,” Rehkow said. “If you play good defense you’ve got a chance.
“I was joking with one of my assistants ‘we’ve been behind 31 minutes and 56 seconds’. You know what, that’s those kids. They don’t give up.”
The Rams had a final possession, moving to midcourt where they took a timeout with 2 seconds to go.
On the inbounds pass, freshman Madison Hovren stole the ball for CV.
“Like our coach says, there are three things you need,” Hovren said. “You need to have good health, which we have, you need to have chemistry and you need to have a little luck. And we had luck.”
No CV player scored in double figures. Hovren had a game-high 15 rebounds and Mariah Cunningham had eight.
“It was rough at times. We couldn’t get any of our bunnies to go in,” Emory said. “We weren’t getting a lot of calls. We had to fight through that.”
Said Rehkow: “What I was really thrilled about was their perseverance. That’s a good team we beat. This is their ride and I’m just tagging along.”
Skyview 63, Gonzaga Prep 50: This semifinal had several similarities to the CV/Mount Rainier matchup.
The Storm jumped on the Bullpups early, but G-Prep rallied to pull within 14-12 by the end of the first quarter.
Skyview surged ahead again in the second. The Storm extended their margin to 14 in the third quarter.
Still, the Bullpups fought back. Two free throws by Lindsay Stockton to open the fourth pulled G-Prep within 47-44.
That’s the last G-Prep would be in touch with Skyview.
“We didn’t handle their athleticism,” G-Prep coach Mike Arte said. “Their posts were the most athletic we’ve seen this year.”
The Storm hurt the Bullpups inside frequently. And they did a decent job breaking full court pressure.
“We had trouble defending them and that’s uncharacteristic of us. We had matchup troubles most of the game. Offensively we played too franticly. We didn’t look like the team we’ve looked like the last two weeks. We were rushing shots and not passing to each other.”
Madison Wright led G-Prep with 13 points, five rebounds and five steals.
Arte reminded his team that it was playing for third and fifth.
“They were really upset and disappointed but we talked to them about finishing the season strong, showing some character,” Arte said. “We’re playing for third and fifth. If you had said that in November I’m not sure I would have believed it. They’ve come a long way. I told them I’m so incredibly proud of them, how they’ve matured as young ladies, how they’ve played together. I told them I want to see that for 24 more hours.”