TACOMA – The Gonzaga Prep and Lynnwood girls basketball teams played at a state-championship level, and when the State 4A tournament semifinal concluded Friday the Bullpups were at the top of their game.
Especially junior post Otiona Gildon, who didn’t get much sleep Thursday after she played admittedly one of her worst games of the year.
Gildon was primed to make up for it in a big way, finishing with a game-high 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots as the Bullpups topped the Lynnwood Royals 61-56 at the Tacoma Dome.
“I played better – more focused I guess,” Gildon said. “I played like crap (Thursday). I just had to make sure I got my head in the game better.”
G-Prep (24-1), winners of 22 straight since a two-point loss to St. Mary’s of Portland, takes on Mt. Rainier (25-3) in the final tonight. Tipoff is at 5. Mt. Rainier rallied to stave off an upset bid by Moses Lake, 56-55.
In a game chock-full of big plays, none probably was bigger than a steal by Hannah Caudill near midcourt with 1:21 remaining. She quickly fired a 45-foot pass on a rope to Gildon under the basket, and Gildon was fouled as she made the shot. She also made the free throw to extend the Bullpups’ lead to 56-49.
“Again, those basketball IQs and basketball instincts that our kids have, there’s nothing that beats that,” G-Prep coach Mike Arte said. “There are no X’s and O’s, there’s nothing I can do as a coach. It takes basketball instincts and they have it.”
The Bulldogs had to be at their best, and exemplifying that were Caudill and guard Laura Stockton. They were on point, especially passing, and they had to be against a team very much the Bullpups’ equal.
Caudill and Stockton combined for 12 assists.
The Royals, who like to run, had few transition baskets. When Jasmin Edwards hit a 3-pointer with 4:22 to go, it gave Lynnwood just its second lead at 47-46.
“We kept our cool, which was really big, especially with a team that pressures like they do,” Stockton said.
When Stockton made two free throws 30 seconds later, the Bullpups took the lead back for good.
“Our kids have played in high-level games and it showed,” Arte said.
Lynnwood tried to do what it has done to countless other teams – use full-court pressure to get easy offense. It didn’t work against the composed Bullpups.
“We only had one time where we got a little nutty,” Arte said.
It was actually the Bullpups defense late that wreaked havoc on the Royals, who committed five turnovers in a 2:40 span.
Gildon praised Caudill and Stockton.
“They pushed the ball and they limited our turnovers,” he said.
Now the Bullpups hope to do what Mead did last year – capture the gold ball, the symbol of being state champs.
“I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited for this opportunity,” Stockton said.
Since 2000, the Greater Spokane League has had a team in the final 12 of 15 years. This is the ninth straight season.