Followers of girls high school basketball in Spokane have known for years what Tia Presley could do on the court. Now the rest of the country is finally catching up.
Presley, a junior at Washington State, has scored 32 points in three of WSU’s last four contests. She was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week last week after scoring 32 in consecutive road wins over Utah and Colorado.
The guard played her high school ball at Gonzaga Prep in the Greater Spokane League. A wealth of talent in girls basketball, the GSL has sent Briann January, Emily Westerberg and Stacy Clinesmith to the WNBA in recent years.
“Girls basketball in the Northwest and the Inland Empire is amazing,” WSU coach June Daugherty said. “You don’t need to look very far, just look at record books for state tournaments and all the state titles that have been won on this side of the mountains.”
Teams from the GSL have won the 4A state girls tournament in five of the past eight years. In the other three years, GSL teams finished as the runner-up twice.
Even though the region has had its share of future pros, it is Presley’s name that sits atop the all-time GSL scoring leaders with 1,469 points in her prep career. While her family has since moved to the East Coast, Presley still has roots in the Spokane community and is an example to the next crop of high school players.
“I think Tia is really representing the GSL and the Inland Empire very well with her play, and it’s fun,” Daugherty said. “I see a lot of the younger players looking up to her. Hopefully they’ll continue to be amazed because she’s having an incredible season.”
Though she was named all-league all four years in high school, the junior had to wait to make a similar impact in college.
Presley suffered season-ending injuries in each of her first two seasons at WSU. This year she’s leading the team with 18.9 points per game, and trails only Lia Galdeira in both steals and assists.
“We all know she’s such a competitor so it’s nice to see her doing what she does best because you can tell that’s what she is born to do,” said teammate Sage Romberg. “She’s a competitor and she wants to compete so it’s good to see her finally be healthy and out there doing what she loves.
With Presley finally healthy late in the season, the Cougars (15-13, 9-7 Pac-12) have won at least eight conference games for the first time since the 1995-96 season.
After playing point guard her first two years, Presley has also benefitted from a position switch.
“For the first two years I had the ball in my hands most of the time and I wasn’t so much looking to score,” she said. “And this year I’m playing the off guard and I’m looking for my shot more and trying to be more aggressive. I haven’t been this aggressive since I’ve been here.”
According to her teammates, that aggressiveness has permeated to the rest of the squad. With a strong finish, the Cougars have a chance to be invited to the NCAA tournament for the second time. The last NCAA bid was in 1990-91.
Although the Cougars’ record sits barely above .500, the team has successfully navigated a tough Pac-12 Conference and has wins over ranked teams such as No. 10 Nebraska, No. 24 Arizona State and No. 21 Colorado.
With an upcoming trip to No. 18 California and No. 5 Stanford, the women have more opportunities to show they belong.
“Everyone’s so determined,” Presley said.
“We’ve said NCAA’s the goal from the beginning and everyone’s playing their butts off to get to that goal.”