Tri-Cities Prep called a timeout with 26.6 seconds left to clear its bench at the end of a championship game it never trailed, substituting in five players who were no older than those they replaced.
It made clear one thing: The Jaguars are poised to make another run at this tournament next year.
Against the Jaguars’ trapping defense, the Liberty Lancers scored just two points in the first quarter, and Tri-Cities Prep won the State 2B girls title for the first time with a 50-42 victory Saturday night at the Spokane Arena.
“That set the pace for what we wanted,” Jaguars coach Joe Mackay said of the trap, something his team hadn’t yet employed when Liberty beat Tri-Cities Prep 72-59 on Dec. 7.
The Lancers’ lot was made all the more difficult when junior Aleena Cook injured her right wrist at the start of the game. She never returned.
“Anytime you lose a starter, it’s gonna hurt you,” Liberty coach Chris Colvin said of Cook. “She’s a big part of what we do, so we’re missing a lot when she goes down 10 seconds into the game.”
The Lancers (23-5) turned over the ball nine times and shot 1 of 7 from the field in the first quarter, falling behind 12-2.
Midway through the second quarter, the Jaguars extended their lead to 24-6. The closest the Lancers got was within eight midway through the fourth quarter when sophomore Delaney Goodwin’s 3-pointer made it 39-31.
From there, the Jaguars (28-1) hit 8 of 9 free-throw attempts to close out the win.
Sophomore Talia von Oelhoffen, a Division I recruit, had 25 points on 6-of-12 shooting and was 12 for 12 at the free-throw line. She also had eight of the Jaguars’ 16 steals and grabbed seven rebounds.
Liberty junior Maisie Burnham had 11 points, and Goodwin added 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
But ultimately the Lancers’ slow start, poor long-range shooting – they hit 4 of 20 3-point attempts – and 25 turnovers doomed their comeback.
“We’re fighting an uphill battle there, so we had to get quick shots, not necessarily the ones we are accustomed to letting the offense work for,” Colvin said. “When you’re sped up it’s hard to be efficient.”
Colvin said he was disappointed but still grateful for the program’s first state championship game appearance.
“Someone has to lose, unfortunately, and in the moment it stinks to be No. 2,” Colvin said. “But at the same time, (we’ve) worked really hard and they earned the opportunity to be in this championship game. There are 60 other teams who would wish to be in their spot.”
The Jaguars, without a senior, reached the quarterfinals as a No. 11 seed last year, losing to Colfax.
But before this season, they added sophomore point guard McKenna Martinez, who scored 14 points and had five steals against Liberty. Her presence was important this year, von Oelhoffen said.
Also, she said, the Jaguars played loose this tournament.
“Because we know we all have another year left, there wasn’t as much pressure,” von Oelhoffen said. “I think that helped a lot, and we’re ready to be back next year.”
Davenport 60, St. George’s 39: Janaye Wilkie scored 21 points with nine rebounds and the fifth-seeded Gorillas (22-5) defeated the 12th-seeded Dragons (18-11) in the fourth-place game.
Sydney Zeiler added 20 points with five rebounds, and Ellie Telford had 11 points for Davenport. Lydia Berquist led St. George’s with 13 points and seven rebounds. Abby Jones added 11 points for for the Dragons.
Davenport clamped down on the perimeter, limiting the Dragons to 2-for-13 shooting from the 3-point line. St. George’s was held to 13 points after halftime.
Wahkiakum 54, La Conner 43: Macie Elliot scored 22 points on 6-for-11 shooting with seven rebounds and the top-seeded Mules (25-2) defeated the third-seeded Braves (21-5) in the third-place game.
Rachel Cram led La Conner with 14 points, and Justine Benson had 12 points on 5-for-21 shooting. Morgan Herrera grabbed 12 rebounds for the Braves.
Wahkiakum secured a 34-20 lead at halftime and won despite shooting 4 for 21 from the floor in the second half.
Jansi Merz added nine points and 10 rebounds for the Mules. Both teams struggled from long range as Wahkiakum was 4 for 22 and La Conner 3 for 22.