Through a series of tiebreakers, University secured the third Greater Spokane League seed to the District 8 tournament – which starts next week – with its win on Thursday. So Saturday’s showdown between Gonzaga Prep and visiting Mead was for seeding.
The winner would secure the No. 2 seed and the privilege of hosting a first-round game on Wednesday, with the loser relegated to the fourth seed and daunting trip to the Tri-Cities to face Mid-Columbia Conference champion Chiawana – and nationally-ranked prospect Talia Von Oelhoffen.
Lakin Gardner scored 23 points, including a huge 3-pointer to quell a late charge, as G-Prep built a big lead then held off the visiting Panthers 57-47.
Gonzaga Prep (14-6, 9-5) will host sixth-seeded Walla Walla in a first-round game on Wednesday
Mead (13-7, 8-6) trailed by 15 after three quarters, but got the deficit down to six with 3 minutes to go.
Gardner’s 3 deep at the top of the key provided the cushion the Pups needed.
“I just thought we really needed to get a valuable shot there,” Gardner said. “Our season, it’s been really really difficult for us to set up a play and actually get an open shot. I was just thinking, if it’s not me it’s my teammate that’s going to get open so I’m gonna set that screen and she’s gonna nail that shot.”
The importance of a home playoff game weighed on G-Prep.
“Home games are huge,” Gardner said. “That means more sleep for us, better preparation, hopefully better food. I think that really helps our mental aspect of the game as well as our physical too. And I think as a team we really needed that win to kind of get our confidence up for the playoffs.”
Gardner got off to a quick start, scoring 11 points in the first quarter, and the Bullpups led 14-12 after one.
Leah Carney (10 points) popped three 3-pointers in the second and G-Prep opened up a double-digit lead. Joelnell Momberg answered with a pair of 3s late in the frame and Mead trailed 30-22 at intermission.
Gardner scored on a back-door cut off a feed from Carney midway through the third to put the Pups up 37-25. G-Prep limited Mead to two baskets in the quarter and led 43-28 after three.
Mead started the fourth quarter with a 12-4 run – hitting eight straight free throws – to make it a seven-point game.
But Gardner buried a 3 as the shot clock was expiring to make it 51-42 with 1:52 to go, and Demi Howlett (10 points) made 6 of 8 at the line down the stretch.
“That’s one of the things that we’ve been really focusing on in practice,” Gardner said. “We’ve been shooting a lot of free throws and kind of punishing ourselves if we don’t make, taking responsibility for If we miss them.”
Momberg led Mead with 13 points and Alicia Suggs added 11.
Mt. Spokane 55, Ferris 23: Emma Main scored 14 points, Jayda Noble added 12 and the Wildcats (16-3, 12-0), which led 14-1 after the first quarter, defeated the Saxons (7-13, 4-10).
Kacey Spink led Ferris with 11 points.
Mt. Spokane, the top seed in the 3A tourney, hosts a second-round game on Friday.