TACOMA – It wasn’t according to script.
To say Gonzaga Prep girls basketball coach Mike Arte went to a little used scheme in his playbook would be stretching the truth. He doesn’t teach zone defense.
But there the Bullpups were struggling to get stops when the 26-year coach called for an extended 2-3 zone with speedy Kayla Leland chasing Mt. Rainier point guard Jordan McPhee everywhere she went.
The change saved the Bullpups, who rallied from a 12-point deficit to knock off Mt. Rainier 53-51 in the State 4A championship final Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
“We changed the script by going to zone,” Arte said. “We had to change up something because they were kicking us in our other stuff. We just don’t play zone. But if you apply your man concepts to zone it works because we always had someone on Brittany (McPhee) and we forced them to shoot some outside shots, which they weren’t hitting.”
The Bullpups don’t even practice zone.
“The only zone we play is in practice against our zone offense,” Arte said. “It saved our bacon didn’t it?”
Here’s what prompted the zone – Mt. Rainier (25-4) built a 41-29 lead three minutes into the third quarter.
Moments later the Bullpups (25-1) took advantage of a couple of Rams turnovers, and a jumper in transition from Leland pulled G-Prep within 43-39 with 1:43 left in the quarter.
Mt. Rainier got the lead back to eight points, but Laura Stockton made a driving basket while being fouled with 24 seconds to go. She made the free throw, pulling the Bullpups within 47-42 going into the fourth quarter.
When Brittany McPhee made a jumper to make it 49-44 in the Rams’ favor with just over 5 minutes to play, it appeared the state title was slipping out of the Bullpups’ reach.
Defense took over and that fed an 8-0 surge by G-Prep’s offense. A big play that the Bullpups converted a handful of times between guard Hannah Caudill and post Otiona Gildon – a pick and roll – resulted with G-Prep taking a 52-49 lead with 1:02 to go.
“When you have a stud, go to the stud,” Arte said.
Kati Freeberg got behind G-Prep’s zone for a basket with 19 seconds remaining, trimming the Bullpups’ lead to 52-51.
The Rams almost got the ball back with full-court pressure. A loose ball squirted around near midcourt before Leland chased it down with 9 seconds to go.
Mt. Rainier had to give three fouls to get G-Prep to the bonus, and with 3 seconds remaining Caudill stepped to the foul line for a one-and-one opportunity.
Caudill paused, blowing air on her hands.
“I was sweaty. I was so nervous and I didn’t want the ball to slip off my hand,” she said. “I was just trying to cool off and collect myself.”
Caudill made the first shot and missed the second. She was called for a lane violation, allowing the Rams to set up for a last attempt to get the ball up court for a shot.
But the Rams could only advance the ball to midcourt where Jordan McPhee’s throw landed shy of the basket.
The title was particularly special to Caudill, the team’s lone starting senior.
“This is so huge,” Caudill said. “This has been my dream. It means the world to me. This is the best team I’ve ever been part of. To share this with them is amazing.”