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Sports >  High school sports

Undefeated Mead girls withstand higher competition, rough shooting night to advance to 3A semifinal

March 3, 2022 Updated Thu., March 3, 2022 at 8:40 p.m.

TACOMA – It wasn’t supposed to go like this. But games in the Tacoma Dome are just different.

Top-seeded and undefeated Mead shot poorly much of the game – finishing just 2 of 14 from beyond the arc – but leaned on its reliably tenacious defense until the offense caught up late. Though it wasn’t pretty, the Panthers advanced.

Olivia Moore, Teryn Gardner and Haley Burns scored 10 points apiece and the No. 1 Panthers slowly, but surely, pulled away from seventh-seeded Stanwood 52-33 in a State 3A quarterfinal.

Parker Brown was a spark off the bench, going 3 for 3 for nine points at a critical juncture for the Panthers.

Mead (23-0) faces fourth-seeded Lake Washington on Friday at 7:15 p.m. in a semifinal.

“I think we were a little nervous coming in and you could definitely see it in the first quarter,” sophomore Gardner said. “But then the second quarter we started getting out of our shell a little bit more and then in the second half, we really let it out.”

“First-game jitters,” Mead coach Quantae Anderson said. “But very bad angles and (missed) a lot of those bunnies. It was just one of those things. This is a new atmosphere for them. I think Olivia settled us down. And then Parker played some phenomenal defense.”

“This is like a whole different level for what we’re used to playing,” Brown said. “It’s just really good for us to play against this hard competition and show it we can actually do.”

The Panthers didn’t trail much all season, yet found themselves 11 points down in the second quarter.

“That’s why we want to be here,” Moore said. “We want to be facing the best team, so it’s cool to play good competition. And it’s gonna prepare us for our next games coming up.”

The Panthers, who won by 40 in a regional game on Saturday, faced substantially more resistance in this one.

“We respect every team that we play, but you never know what you’re gonna get some days,” Brown said. “It’s disruption some days, and some days everything goes in.”

Leading by just three points after three quarters, the Panthers turned up the defense and outscored the Spartans 17-1 in the fourth quarter.

“There’s two things that travel in basketball – defense and lay-ins,” Anderson said. “And your effort takes you where you’re supposed to be.”

Stanwood’s Ava DePew and Grace Walker hit late 3-pointers in the first quarter to spark a 17-11 lead. The Spartans (13-6) scored the first five points in the second quarter and Anderson, who won a state title in 2013 when Mead was in 4A, asked for timeout.

There wasn’t really a rallying cry in the huddle.

“I just told them, ‘We’ve been waiting for this all season, right?’ ” Anderson said. “ ‘How are we gonna respond?’ And they came back and responded really well.”

“I think it was more, ‘Let’s play our game and get back,’ because we knew it could be better,” Gardner said. “It was good for us to be down because we haven’t had that yet this season.”

Mead found its collective touch – for a while. Natalie Braun completed a three-point play and a second-chance layup by Burns finished an 11-0 run to tie the score. A layup by Brown gave the Panthers a 26-25 lead at the half.

“I think at the beginning we started out and it was just nerves,” Moore said. “We were all kind of rattled and not really playing together, and then we flipped the switch in the second quarter. Our goal was like, once we got down we’re like, ‘All right, we need to go into halftime winning.’ ”

The teams continued to shoot poorly in the third, but Alicia Suggs hit a 3 and Brown muscled her way in for a layup and the Panthers led 35-32 heading to the fourth quarter.

In the final quarter, Mead really turned up the heat, pressuring every inbound pass. Burns finished a fastbreak and Gardner got loose on a couple of transition baskets and the lead grew to 13 with 2 minutes left.

“That’s normally like our bread and butter,” Moore said. “Getting steals and getting easy transition buckets, and it really helped our finish.”

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