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

State 3A girls: Mead edged by Garfield in championship game; ‘Gardner vs. Fiso’ a battle for the ages

They say good things come to those who wait. But senior Teryn Gardner and her top-seeded Mead teammates were tired of waiting.

After falling in the state semifinals two years in a row and finishing third and fourth, Gardner allowed herself a “Finally,” after knocking off third-seeded Snohomish on Friday and, yes, finally reaching the 3A championship game.

But that meant going through, over or around three-time defending champion Garfield and star guard Katie Fiso, who early this year signed with University of Oregon. Fiso came into the game as the tournament’s leading scorer at 24.5 points per game, but Gardner (19.0) was not far behind.

Gardner, the two-time Greater Spokane League MVP, had claimed every accolade and award available in her high school basketball career – except one.

And that, unfortunately, will go unfulfilled.

Fiso scored 29 points, including a pair of 3-pointers in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, and the sixth-seeded Bulldogs (21-3) edged the top-seeded Panthers (26-2) 62-59 in the State 3A championship game at Tacoma Dome on Saturday.

Fiso was named tournament MVP by attending media. Gardner was a first-team selection and Mead sophomore Addison Wells Morrison was named to the second team. 

Fiso’s 3-pointers were the only ones of the game for Garfield, which shot 54% overall.

“I work on those 3s a lot,” Fiso said. “So, it was really just another shot for me.”

Mead, which entered the tournament as the top seed two of the past three seasons, was looking for its first state title since 2013 when it was in the 4A classification.

Mead coach Quantae Anderson said his message to his team in the locker room would be simple.

“I’m telling them that they played with all their heart,” he said. “They played as hard as they could for as long as they could. And that’s all we can ask for. And sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce the way you want it to bounce.”

Gardner finished with 22 points on 7 of 17 shooting and 7 of 8 at the line. The rest of the team went 13 of 20 on free throws.

“We shoot 40 free throws at practice for these moments … and I don’t feel like we converted on that,” Gardner said. “But we fought hard. We played as hard as we could. Some things didn’t go our way, but we fought to the end.”

“Despite (Garfield’s) losses, I felt like that was their best game. And I still feel like we were the better team,” Anderson said. “We didn’t shoot as great as we normally do. But hats off to them. I mean, four years in a row? We wanted to be the ones that knock them off.”

The two star players, who didn’t spend much of the night guarding each other, showed respect for the other.

“(Fiso) is a good player,” Gardner said. “We knew it was gonna be tough. I knew it was gonna be a challenge, but we had to just come ready to go.”

“I played against her in (club ball) a little while ago,” Fiso said. “She’s hell of a player. Great defensive player.”

“I think they are the two best in the state,” Anderson said. “And hats off to Katie. She had some big shots at the end. And Taryn did her share too.”

Gardner scored 13 points in the first quarter, Fiso had nine and Mead led Garfield 19-16 after one.

Maya Davis hit back-to-back turnarounds to give Garfield a three-point lead with 2 minutes left in the half. Addison Wells Morrison scored on a long fast break pass from Gardner, then hit a free throw to even it up. Mead got a stop at the other end as Fiso’s runner circled out and it was tied at 32 at the half.

Fiso had 17 at the break; Gardner had 16.

The teams continued to trade blows in the third, and another Davis turnaround jumper put Garfield up by four. Fiso scored on an offensive rebound with 1:20 left in the quarter to make it 47-41. Gardner was held scoreless in the period and Mead trailed by five entering the fourth.

Reece Frederick scored twice under the basket to get it to one, but Garfield’s Devyn Hall answered with a 3.

Gardner and Jayda Lewis got tied up, and Lewis was assessed a technical foul. Gardner made both free throws then scored off a back door cut to make it 53-52.

Morrison drew Fiso’s fourth foul with 4:03 to go and made both to tie it at 56. The teams went scoreless for 2 minutes until Fiso drained a 3. She hit again as the shot clock buzzer went off, but Mead raced back down, and Gracie Wenkheimer hit from deep to put it back to 3 with 47 seconds left.

Frederick grabbed a rebound with 15 seconds to go and after a held ball, Mead had an inbounds play with 3.4 seconds left. The play went to Gardner, of course, but her 3-point attempt with Fiso draped over her didn’t reach the hoop.

“I’m just proud of our girls,” Anderson said. “They fought every day this season. They were ready for this moment. And sometimes the ball doesn’t go in.”