Mead girls basketball standout Sue Winger is in her third year as a starter.
Like many who near the end of their junior seasons, Winger is making a sharp upward trajectory in her growth as a player.
It was no more evident than Tuesday when the 6-foot-2 Winger scored a game-high 19 points, pulled down 13 rebounds and had three assists to lead the Panthers to a key 54-47 win over visiting Lewis and Clark in a battle of teams tied in second place.
Winger, smart in the classroom and possessing a high basketball IQ, was quick to deflect credit to her teammates.
“My teammates were finding me in open positions down low because we had a big height advantage,” Winger said. “They were getting it to me in the right place.”
The victory sets up a showdown in the final league game Thursday when Mead (14-5 overall, 13-4 league) goes to Central Valley (14-5, 13-4). The all-important second seed to the District 8 championship game will be decided. League champion Gonzaga Prep locked up the top seed last week, and the Bullpups will play host to the Mead-CV winner on Saturday in the district final.
Mead stubbed its toe a couple of times earlier in league, including a 50-47 loss to CV that the Panthers want to avenge. So the 2013 state champions knew what they faced coming into the week.
The Panthers completed a sweep of LC (13-6, 12-5), but the second meeting between the teams was competitive throughout.
Three times the Panthers helped their cause by making buzzer-beating shots. The first came at the end of the first quarter when Payton Douglass hit a runner in the key. The second came just before halftime when Winger made a left-handed runner from 8 feet. And the third came at the end of the third when Delany Junkermier buried a 3-pointer.
Mead coach Quantae Anderson said Winger is capable of dominating every game.
“As of late, she’s been playing her best basketball,” he said. “She’s getting better at everything, too. One of the things that’s underestimated about her is her passing – and passing out of a double team. She’s hitting girls cutting to the hole. And she knows when to take the right shots. She’s becoming a leader. This year when we started she sort of took a back seat to the seniors. But when we’ve needed her she’s stepped up.”
Winger wasn’t without help Tuesday. Ashlyn Lewey had 15 points, five rebounds and two assists and Junkermier added 14 points and two assists.
Riley Lupfer and Emma Keenan led LC with 14 points apiece, and Lupfer had eight rebounds.
Gonzaga Prep 69, Shadle Park 35: The Bullpups (18-1, 17-0) kept cruising toward the postseason, using 24-7 first and third quarters to put away the host Highlanders (7-12, 7-10). Otiona Gildon led G-Prep with 19 points and Laura Stockton and Hannah Caudill had 14 apiece. Sam Foote led Shadle with 15.
University 59, North Central 25: McKenzie Peterson made four 3-pointers on her way to 18 points to lead the visiting Titans (6-11, 6-13) past the Indians (2-17, 2-15). U-Hi opened an 18-3 lead in the first quarter.
Central Valley 51, Mt. Spokane 38: The Bears (14-5, 13-4) remained in a tie for second by handling the visiting Wildcats (7-12, 6-11). Madison Hovren led CV with 22 points. The Bears opened a 28-15 lead by halftime. Ashlee Pedersen led Mt. Spokane with 18 points.
Ferris 73, Rogers 36: The visiting Saxons opened a 26-4 lead in the first quarter. Jill Louthian led Ferris with 17 points, Kaley Lenhart had 15 and Brittney Johnson added 11. Sarah Guertin led Rogers (0-19, 0-17) with 12. The Saxons led 52-22 at halftime.