TACOMA – When Central Valley met Woodinville in the State 4A title game in 2018, the result was little more than a formality.
The undefeated, No. 1 Bears boasted three Division I players, including two-time Gatorade State Player of the Year Lexie Hull and her twin sister Lacie, both now helping lead No. 7 Stanford through the Pac-12.
This time, it was a relentless, 32-minute battle.
Chloe Williams scored 20 points, Peyton Howard added 18 and No. 3 Central Valley edged No. 1 Woodinville 59-55 in the championship game at the Tacoma Dome on Saturday.
This was Central Valley’s ninth trip to the state final, with previous titles in 1993, 2001, ’02, ’16 and ’18.
Howard was a member of CV’s undefeated, historic 2018 title as a sophomore backup guard.
“I’ve done it before, but I’ve never been such a big factor,” Howard said of her second state title. “This team was relying on all of us seniors and we did it. I never had a doubt that we couldn’t do it.”
“It was a battle,” Greater Spokane League Coach of the Year Felice Orrell said. “I thought we stayed very poised, very composed, and it was just a great game.”
Mia Hughes – the two-time KingCo MVP who was a frosh on Woodinville’s 2018 team – finished with 28 points on 11-of-21 shooting and 6 of 6 at the line.
CV junior MJ Bruno added 15 points with seven rebounds and guarded Hughes much of the night.
“Tonight’s game was a battle for us and we really had to dig deep and I think we did that,” Bruno said. “I think we hustled for offensive boards and we did what we needed to do to win.”
Central Valley (23-3) took the lead early, led by as much as 16 and never relinquished it – although Woodinville (28-1) never relented.
CV was up nine with 3 1/2 minutes left, but Hughes hit four free throws and two layups to make it a three-point game with 1:16 to go.
Howard made 1 of 2 at the line to make it a six-point game with 24.5 left.
Woodinville frosh Brooke Beresford was fouled on a 3-pointer and she made all the free throws. Howard made it a four-point game with a free throw, but Veronica Sheffy’s layup left CV up 57-55 with 8 seconds left.
“We want it in her hands at the end,” Orrell said of her senior captain Howard. “She’s been focused this entire tournament. She did not want to go home without the trophy.”
The inbounds pass went to Howard and she was sent to the line again. She missed the second attempt, but Grace Geldien came down with the rebound and made 1 of 2 at the line to clinch it.
“I just knew I had to go and really box down and be aggressive, because the game was on the line at that point,” Geldien said.
CV got out to a good start and led 15-11 after one. Hughes finally got hot in the second, hitting midrange jumpers at will. She scored 12 points in the quarter, but her teammates only added one more and CV led 32-24 at intermission.
Bruno swished a 3-pointer to start the third and CV opened the quarter on a 8-0 run to lead 40-24 midway through.
The Bears went cold for a couple of minutes, and Hughes hit a turn-around – her only basket of the quarter – to cut the Falcons’ deficit to eight. Bruno picked up her fourth foul with 1.1 seconds left and CV led 42-33 after three.
“We just kind of had, in the first half, a few problems guarding (Hughes),” Orrell said. “So we kept kind of going to different people, which I thought we did a really good job. But then we had some foul trouble and it was a little more challenging. But we stuck with the game plan it paid off.”
Williams drove the lane on CV’s first possession of the fourth, and her 3-pointer a minute later restored a double-digit lead.
“A lot of people don’t see what (Williams) does defensively,” Orrell said. “We usually have her guarding one of the best kids. So knocking shots down, guarding the best kid. What more can you ask for?”
But Tatum Thompson made two free throws, then hit a short jumper to get it Woodinville within six with 4 1/2 minutes to go.
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