TACOMA – Really, it had just been long enough.
The Gonzaga Prep girls basketball program had been to the State 4A tournament twice over the last 30 years or so. But neither of those squads brought hardware home from Seattle or Tacoma.
That changed for the Bullpups on Saturday, despite a 56-51 loss to Mt. Rainier. Gonzaga Prep grabbed the fifth-place trophy, while Mt. Rainier finished third.
“It’s quite an accomplishment for these girls,” Gonzaga Prep coach Mike Arte said. “I know they don’t feel it right now. But it is quite an accomplishment.”
The Bullpups were one possession away from a possible third-place trophy.
Trailing 53-47 after Brittany McPhee made two free throws for Mt. Rainier with 1 minute, 29 seconds to play, Madison Wright went to work. The junior made a driving shot in the lane with 1:15 to go, then after two missed free throws on the other end, sank two free throws with 46 seconds to play.
“We just had a sense of urgency,” Wright said. “We had to fight through it.”
Wright’s free throws got Gonzaga Prep back to within two, 53-51. Five seconds later, Lindsey Stockton stepped in front of McPhee at midcourt, drawing a charging foul on the Rams star, her fifth.
McPhee, who scored just two points in the first half even as Mt. Rainier built a 29-20 halftime lead, took over after the break. She scored all eight Rams points in the third quarter, then added nine more before fouling out in the fourth with a game-high 19.
The offensive foul gave the Bullpups a chance to tie or take the lead.
They worked the ball and got Cassie Anderson open. The shot just didn’t fall.
“We had what we wanted,” Arte said. “You had to look at the time. She had the shot.”
Still, the fifth-place finish is the highest for the Gonzaga Prep girls. The previous best was a sixth-place trophy won in 1983, when future Washington Husky Lisa Oriard played for the Bullpups.
Oriard’s team was the last to bring home hardware – until Saturday.
Wright was the only Gonzaga Prep player to score in double figures with 10 points. She also led the team with seven rebounds.
Stockton finished her high school career by scoring nine points, grabbing two rebounds and dishing out two assists.