PUYALLUP, Wash. – The goal is always the same for the Gonzaga Prep girls basketball team – apply as much pressure as possible on defense and capitalize on the mistakes.
With Otiona Gildon and Laura Stockton leading the charge and causing all kinds of headaches for the opposition, the end result is usually a positive one for the Bullpups.
Gildon scored a game-high 15 points, Stockton added 12 and Gonzaga Prep punched its ticket to the State 4A tournament with a 48-39 victory over Union of Vancouver in the state regional round Friday night at Rogers High School in Puyallup.
“This was the fourth loser-out game we’ve played in the last 10 days,” Gonzaga Prep coach Mike Arte said. “I think that shows a ton of character.”
It wasn’t easy, but the Bullpups relied on their defense to pull away in the fourth quarter, where they held the Titans scoreless for the opening 6 1/2 minutes of the final period.
“Defense is always our focus,” Gildon said. “Our offense really wasn’t clicking early on, but you can always play tough defense.”
Gonzaga Prep improved to 22-3 on the year with all three of its setbacks coming to Greater Spokane League rival Mead.
The Bullpups will make their third consecutive, and fifth trip all-time, to the 4A state tournament, which begins Thursday at the Tacoma Dome.
Gonzaga Prep took home the fifth-place trophy last season, marking just the second time the school has placed at the tournament and the first since finishing sixth in 1983.
Union, the second-place team out of the Greater St. Helens League, finished 18-9.
The Bullpups opened the game with a 14-2 run, forcing Union into six early turnovers.
But Union found its stride, scoring the first 11 points of the second quarter to tie the game at 17 while Gonzaga Prep missed its first 12 attempts in the quarter.
Jessica Chatman, who paced the Titans with 13 points, gave Union its lone lead of the game at 22-21 with a 3-pointer late in the period.
A Stockton free throw with 8 seconds remaining in the first half made it a 22-22 contest at the intermission.
Leading 35-31 after three quarters, Gonzaga Prep sealed the game by opening the fourth on a 9-0 run, which was capped by a Mary Hoffman basket with 2 minutes left in the game.
The Bullpups turned to Gildon during the run as the sophomore post scored seven points.
“We told the girls in the time out that we were going inside,” Arte said. “We knew they couldn’t guard Otiona down low.”
When Gildon wasn’t scoring in the paint, Gonzaga Prep was forcing Union into turnovers – the Titans had seven in the fourth quarter – and poor shooting as Union missed its first eight shots in the final quarter.
“I thought we played excellent defense tonight,” Arte said. “With the exception of that stretch in the second quarter we didn’t have too many letdowns on defense.”