TACOMA – Mt. Spokane Wildcats, congratulations on your first trip to the Tacoma Dome.
Here, play one of the nation’s best girls basketball teams.
No matter. The Wildcats came to win Thursday afternoon, and they came close to pulling it off, staying within seven points of the undefeated Bellevue Wolverines for much of the fourth quarter before falling 62-53 in a State 3A opener.
“We expected to win. We did,” first-year Wildcats coach David Pratt said. “We put a game plan together. Our kids carried it out. We expected to win. We were in the game the entire time.”
Mt. Spokane (14-11) gave up the first seven points of the game but bounced right back with a 14-3 run over the next seven minutes. Of those 14 points, eight came from senior forward Jordan Smith and six from junior point guard Jaidyn Lyman, who started and ended the run with layups.
“I was looking to drive, take wide-open layins, just get to the basket,” said Lyman, who led all players with 21 points and six assists, and helped keep aggressive Bellevue (27-0) in foul trouble all game.
Three Wolverines starters picked up three fouls in the first half, which ended with a 28-25 Bellevue lead. But Mt. Spokane struggled at the free-throw line, shooting 9 for 16 in the first half and 15 for 26 in the game.
“We kept attacking. We knew that they were really handsy, in watching film of them,” Pratt said. “We just kept attacking and the officials did a great job. We just needed to make more free throws. If we make more free throws, we put ourselves in position to win it.”
They probably needed to box out a little bit better, too, as the Wolverines finished with 58 rebounds – two times as many as Mt. Spokane’s 29 – including 30 on the offensive end.
Bellevue quickly stretched the lead to 34-25 after a 6-0 run to begin the third quarter. From then on, the Wildcats never got closer than six points or further behind than 11. Smith’s three second-half three-pointers helped them hang around; she finished with 19 points and made 5 of 13 shots from distance.
“It was an awesome time,” Pratt said. “That was a good team, and they hung in with a good team all game, so I was very, very proud of our group.”
The Wolverines were led by senior guards Shelby Cansler, who had 14 points and seven rebounds, and Quinessa Caylao-Do, who scored 14 and had five steals.
Mt. Spokane will go on to play Prairie (21-5) of Vancouver in the consolation bracket at 12:15 p.m. Friday. Bellevue faces fellow undefeated team Lynnwood at 7:15 in the semifinals.
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