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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

State 4A girls: Gonzaga Prep digs deep hole, comeback falls short; Camas wins title game 57-41

TACOMA – Gonzaga Prep came into the State 4A tournament as an underdog, and perhaps overlooked, despite finishing second in the Greater Spokane League – losing only to 3A No. 1 Mead – then beating Chiawana, ranked No. 10 in the RPI, in the district second place game to reach state.

For its reward, the Bullpups were granted the eighth seed to the tournament and the privilege of facing No. 1 Camas in the regional round. Maybe that 53-31 loss contributed to G-Prep coming in lightly regarded by media, fans and, perhaps, opponents.

Once in Tacoma, though, all the Bullpups did was win, taking down the ninth, second and fifth seeds along the way to reach the state title game for the first time since winning back-to-back state championships in 2014 and 2015.

All that stood in their way was, again, Camas, which lost in the title game last year and had played all season with a gold-ball-sized chip on its shoulder. The Papermakers played a national schedule outside of league, taking some lumps, to prepare them for Saturday’s big stage at Tacoma Dome.

That strategy paid off, and the Bullpups’ Cinderella run through state ended abruptly.

Camas (22-6) put together a 21-0 run spanning the first and second quarters and beat the Bullpups (22-7) 57-41 in the State 4A championship game.

Reagan Jamison led Camas with 17 points and eight rebounds, Addison Harris scored 12 and Riley Sanz added 10. Freshman Aylah Cornwall led Gonzaga Prep with 19 points, and senior Gillian Bears added nine points with eight rebounds.

Gonzaga Prep trailed 39-17 at halftime but clawed back to make a game of it in the second half, trimming the deficit to 12 on three occasions.

“I’m just super proud of how our kids battled because we could have let it slip away,” Gonzaga Prep coach Geoff Arte said. “Our kids in the second half were as good as we’d been all week.”

“We made such a big climb. No one expected us to get here,” Bears, the lone senior on the team, said. “And I knew no matter what the turnout of this game, I’m just grateful to be here with these girls and I wouldn’t want to be here with anyone else.”

G-Prep raced out to a 6-0 lead, with Bears knocking down a corner 3, but Camas answered with a 29-3 run until midway through the second quarter.

“Day 4 of this tournament against the best team in the state,” Arte said. “And you can see it in that little run in the first quarter that we were just tired. We couldn’t keep people in front of us that we normally would keep in front of us.”

Cornwall then took it upon herself to score or get to the line. She had seven points in the latter part of the second quarter, including 5 of 8 at the line, and Gonzaga Prep trailed 39-17 at halftime.

Arte said the halftime speech was simple.

“It was kind of – we deserved to be on that floor with them. And we’ve got to play, we’ve got to act like we’re having more fun than them and let’s just see what happens.

“Maybe I should have led with that before the game.”

The Bullpups came out of the lockers with renewed vigor, and Olivia McIntyre (eight points, eight boards) scored a pair of layups to cut the deficit to less than 20. Cornwall hit a pair of 3s and a pair of layups that made it 43-31. She had 10 points in the quarter, and G-Prep trailed 48-35 entering the fourth.

“It was a whole new game,” Bears said. “Anything can happen. We came back from a being down 12 the other day, so we knew that we could come back and close that lead.”

But the score stayed the same through the first 4 minutes of the quarter as the teams traded misses and turnovers. Bears ended the drought with a free throw, and G-Prep trailed by 12 with 3:30 to go.

Sanz nailed a 3 from the top of the key as the shot clock was expiring at the 2-minute mark to restore the lead to 15.

Camas double- and sometimes triple-teamed Cornwall, held her scoreless in the final quarter, and Gonzaga Prep scored just six points.

“They were just making (Cornwall) give up the ball,” Arte said. “And when you’re a player like that, and they come double-teaming, the right basketball play is to pass it and she does that.”

Bears, who will play for Cal Poly , reflected on her career at G-Prep.

“It’s just been such a ride,” she said. “I’ve been with a core group of these girls for all my years at Prep, and I’m definitely gonna miss them in college. It’s just been amazing to spend it with them.”

Record-setter: Cornwall went 35 of 49 from the free-throw line for the tournament, setting the modern 4A tournament record for attempts, breaking the record of 40 set by Aaliyah Alexander (Todd Beamer) and Mia Hughes (Woodinville) in 2020. She finished four makes short of Alexander’s record of 39.