Mead had won every game they played this season by double digits – until Friday.
Just as in Thursday’s quarterfinal win over Stanwood, Mead found resistance early and shooting tough. Just like Thursday, they made a furious fourth-quarter comeback fueled by a tenacious defense.
Unlike Thursday, though, the comeback fell just short.
Teryn Gardner’s last-second contested shot off a back-door set never made it to the rim and the No. 1 Panthers fell 42-41 to fourth-seeded Lake Washington in a State 3A semifinal at the Tacoma Dome.
Mead scored three points in the second quarter and trailed 27-11 at halftime.
“We can’t play just one half of basketball,” Mead coach Quantae Anderson said. “We played hard. And I’m proud of my girls. We fought back. We had the shot we wanted. I thought my girl got fouled, but I’m biased.”
“It stinks,” senior Olivia Moore said. “I think we got rattled on offense and weren’t really playing together, not moving our feet like we normally do.”
Elise Hani, LW’s 6-foot-4 post, scored 19 points with eight rebounds to lead the Kangs (21-4), who advance to the state title game on Saturday.
The Panthers (23-1) play in the third-place game on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Gardner led Mead with 24 points and six steals. Mead shot 29% for the game and went 1 of 13 from beyond the arc.
“We just didn’t shoot the ball very well. I can’t say anything else,” Anderson said. “Credit to (LW), but I don’t think they did anything to get us off our game. We just missed open shots. That happens. But we played well enough to have a chance at the end of the game, we just missed the shot.”
Mead trailed by 12 entering the fourth quarter. Gardner popped a 3 from the wing – the Panthers’ only one of the game – to get the deficit to nine with 6:04 left. Alicia Suggs took a steal the distance and Gardner did the same with 2:23 to go to make it a six-point game.
Parker Brown converted a three-point play with 17.5 seconds remaining to get it to one.
Lake Washington missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Suggs controlled the rebound. After a timeout, Mead had the ball in the frontcourt with 12.1 seconds left.
From the top of the key, Moore found Gardner slashing along the left baseline. But Hani met Gardner at the block and after contact the shot fell harmlessly out of bounds as the horn sounded.
“We did everything we could to get back in it,” Anderson said. “It’s disappointing. Really disappointing. But we have one more game tomorrow we have to get ready for.”
Hani had seven points in the first quarter as Lake Washington built a 12-8 lead. She picked up six more points early in the second and the Kangs’ lead grew to 18-10. A 3-pointer by Rosa Smith made it 23-11 and Anderson asked for time.
Hani hit four straight free throws and Lake Washington led 27-11 at the half.
Mead went 3 of 22 from the field in the half – missing nine straight 3-point attempts.
“We gave (LW) too much,” Anderson said. “I told them in the locker room we weren’t playing our game. We weren’t rotating on defense, gave up too many uncontested 3s.”
A 13-6 run to start the third, fueled by six points from Haley Burns, drew the Panthers to within nine at 33-24. But Hani blocked Burns twice down the stretch and the Kangs led 36-24 after three.
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