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Panthers’ effort worthy of a No. 1

WENATCHEE – Best to date.

The No. 1-ranked Mead girls basketball team will get an opportunity to prove that’s where it belongs as the Panthers on Friday night earned a date in Tacoma.

From start to finish, Mead outclassed the Puyallup Vikings 67-41 in the regional round of the State 5A tournament at Wenatchee High School.

Mead (22-1) heads to the Hardwood Classic, beginning Thursday in the Tacoma Dome.

“That was our most complete game of the season,” Mead coach Quantae Anderson said. “We still have a lot of room for improvement. There are little things that I see we can improve. I’m just glad that there’s more room for us to improve.”

The Panthers were clicking on all cylinders – led by a near-perfect effort from junior Ashlyn Lewey.

Lewey made her first 10 shots, missing a point-blank 5-footer in the key on her final attempt before she left the game with 3 minutes, 49 seconds to go.

She finished with a career-high 23 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

Sixth-ranked Puyallup (20-6) led once – after the game’s first basket.

Mead quickly got out to a 15-6 lead. A 7-0 surge early in the second quarter, though, started the Panthers on a blowout course.

The Panthers outscored the Vikings 19-4 to close out the first half with a 41-16 lead.

Mead extended the margin to 58-33 in the third quarter, and the Panthers had the same 25-point margin late in the fourth when Anderson emptied his bench.

“We all came up fired up realizing this could be the last time all of us play together,” Lewey said. “We had to leave it all on the court.”

Mead finished with 18 assists on its 30 field goals. And the Panthers outrebouned Puyallup 45-25. In addition to Lewey’s 10 rebounds, senior Mackenzie McPhee and sophomore Sue Winger had nine apiece.

Lewey said Anderson’s pregame talk centered around the Panthers not playing up to potential at times.

“He really pepped us up. He said we’ve been beating teams playing 75 percent and not playing a full game hard,” Lewey said. “He said, ‘I want to get four quarters of you playing hard.’ Most of the time what we do is we get ahead and we get content a let them come back. We just came out firing.”

The good play was contagious. Junior Delany Junkermier finished with 14 points, three rebounds and two assists, Winger had 10 points, three assists, three blocked shots and two steals and Jade Redmon had nine points, five rebounds and five assists.

“The girls are excited but they know we have business to take care of next weekend,” Anderson said. “It won’t be a vacation. It’s business purposes only. Hopefully, we’ll have a vacation after that.”