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Defending girls State 1A champ Freeman opens with romp

YAKIMA – Riding the wave of a suffocating defense that shut out King’s for more than 10 minutes in the first half on Thursday, the Freeman Scotties barged their way into the semifinals of the State 1A girls basketball tournament at the SunDome with a 45-19 win over the Knights.

Freeman, the defending 1A champion, is in the semifinals for the third straight year. The Scotties will play Bellevue Christian – which defeated Freeman nemesis and 2010 1A runner-up Granger 54-41 – in the second semifinal at 5:30 p.m. today. The Scotties are riding a six-game state tournament win streak dating back to Trophy Day in 2009.

Freeman (25-1) methodically worked its way to a 9-5 lead after Karlie Storkson of King’s hit a driving jumper with 4:10 remaining in the first period. Then the Scotties clamped down, not allowing King’s to score again until Joclyn Kirton hit a field goal with 1:26 remaining in the half. By then Freeman was in possession of a 24-7 lead that wasn’t seriously challenged.

“We don’t spend a lot of time watching film or worrying about an opponent,” Freeman coach Ashley Taylor-Nimri said. “We tell the girls to play Freeman basketball and that starts with defense.”

That defense included forcing 23 King’s turnovers that the Scotties converted into 23 points.

Freeman basketball usually includes some prolific offense, but the team struggled with the SunDome’s large confines and strange sightlines.

Freeman shot 32.7 percent from the field including 3 of 15 from beyond the 3-point arc.

“I think that was nerves and being here,” Taylor-Nimri said. “We have five freshmen on this team who have never been here.

“We stopped at Big Bend (Community College) on the way over here and the ball was flying all over when we were there, too.”

The Scotties dominated the glass, outrebounding King’s 41-25. Mackenzie Taylor, the game’s leading scorer with 15 points, had eight rebounds to lead that effort, along with four assists. Danny Cossey came off the bench to grab seven rebounds, which drew notice from her coach.

“Danny Cossey came in, hit a 3-pointer and defended like no other,” Taylor-Nimri said. “The rebounding was a team effort as a whole.”

Alyssa Maine added 12 points for the Scotties.