TACOMA – Mt. Spokane wasn’t going to be denied.
With a renewed sense of purpose after being eliminated from the championship bracket, the Wildcats did the next-best thing – win out.
Junior Gracey Neal led four in double figures with 14 points and No. 4 Mt. Spokane beat No. 2 Bethel 61-45 in the State 3A fourth-place game at Tacoma Dome on Saturday.
The Wildcats (22-4) took the lead at 8-7 and never gave it back.
“Last game, out with a bang,” senior all-league guard Emma Main said.
Greater Spokane League Most Valuable Player Jayda Noble, headed for Pac-12 play with Washington in the fall, agreed.
“So nice to finish with a ‘W,’ ” she said.
Main scored 13 points, junior Kyara Sayers had 12 and Noble added 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists and five steals.
“We wanted to be in that championship game,” Mt. Spokane coach David Pratt said. “We still feel like we’re one of the best teams here. But we got to end on a win. That’s fun.”
Pratt celebrated his seniors.
“Great kids, love them,” he said. “We’ll miss them. They helped continue to build this program.
“Sophia (Bertotti-Metoyer) came in this year as a senior and just fit right in and did everything she could. And what else can you say about Jayda? She just affects the game in so many ways. … Emma was just so steady, she’s been such a good defender. They’re just tremendous leaders for us.”
No. 2 Bethel (24-2), which went undefeated this season in the Pierce County League, was upset by No. 9 Garfield 55-41 in a quarterfinal and knocked off No. 5 Shorecrest 40-30 in an elimination game on Friday. The Braves were led by Esmeralda Morales with 17 points and Tiarra Brown with 14.
After falling to Lake Washington in a quarterfinal, Mt. Spokane reached the fourth-place game as Noble scored 13 of her team-high 17 points in the third quarter and downed No. 10 Seattle Prep 48-32 on Friday. Lake Washington advanced to the title game.
“I’d rather lose to someone that made the state championship rather than someone that loses the next round,” Noble said. “Props to them for winning, but it matters what happens after that. We can’t change that. We came out on top for what we could have.”
Noble was proud of her team bouncing back from the quarterfinal loss.
“We really wanted to win a championship. We didn’t, but we had each other. That’s all that matters. So that was really important to me.”
Main was introspective on the win.
“My biggest memory from this year, honestly, is probably just being here, right here, in this moment,” she said. “Being with my team getting to celebrate with them.”
Sayers hit a 3-pointer, Main converted a three-point play, and a Tia Allen layup – assisted by Noble – gave Mt Spokane its first lead at 8-7 midway through the first quarter. Noble and Main hit 3-pointers, and a 13-point run helped the Wildcats lead 19-7 after one.
Mt. Spokane ran its streak to 20 as it scored the first seven points of the second.
“ ‘You can pack it up and go home, or we can take a trophy home,’ ” Pratt told his players after Thursday’s loss. “And they ended on a win. So yeah, they came out today with a huge sense of purpose, for sure.”
Bethel’s Brown finally ended the stretch with a deep 3 from the wing. Brown added one from NBA range, Morales hit for three straight, and Pratt asked for time, leading 28-16 with 4 1/2 to go in the half.
Allen hit an off-balance 3-pointer just before the half, and Mt. Spokane led 33-20 at intermission.
Neal scored six points early in the third, and the Wildcats led 41-26 midway through. Jaimyn Sides and Bertotti-Metoyer scored inside baskets, and Mt. Spokane led 49-32 after three.
“It was nice we got the win,” Bertotti-Metoyer said. “We didn’t play how we wanted to the first day, but we came back strong and really finished up strong.”
In the fourth, Neal made a couple of more layups and Noble added some free throws, a nifty post move and a fastbreak layup to ice it.
“Gracey, you know, it’ll be her turn next year as a senior,” Pratt said. “I think she’s gonna take the league by storm and be one of those next leaders next year, and she showed it today.”
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