Road warriors rematch
March 5, 2013
By Lillian O'Rorke
Vikings prove too much for Spartans at state tourney
Two weeks after a third-quarter run gave the Inglemoor Vikings what they needed to swipe the KingCo crown from the Skyline High School Spartans, history repeated itself at the 4A Girls Basketball State Tournament.
Once again March 1, the Vikings pulled away from the Spartans in the third quarter, this time beating them 44-34, knocking Skyline out of the state tournament before going on to finish in sixth place.
“We hung our hat on hoping that the third time would be a charm,” Skyline coach Greg Bruns said. “In a game like that, a little run is what’s going to make the difference, and that’s what it was. It was just a couple, three shots in a row that changed the momentum and made the difference.”
Inglemoor has repeatedly been the dark spot on Skyline’s nearly blemish-free season. The Spartans’ conference record of 13-2 was in part thanks to their 45-40 loss to the Vikings on Jan. 16. The two teams met again in the championship game of the KingCo tournament where Inglemoor won, 54-36. Skyline’s third and final loss to the Vikings on March 1 gave the Spartans an overall record of 20-7.
“They’ve kind of become our rival throughout the season, just because they beat us twice, and we wanted to be able to prove ourselves today,” senior Skyline co-captain Haley Smith said. “I don’t think we can be unhappy with the season just because it ended with the two losses here. I think just the fact that we are here and we did so well this season — we can only be proud of what we’ve done.”
Both teams entered the game having lost the first round of the state tournament Feb. 28, when Mount Rainier jolted Inglemoor, 61-56, and Mead, the eventual state champion, defeated Skyline, 53-33.
The Spartans and the Vikings started the first quarter March 1 with determined defenses, each not allowing the other to score for the first two minutes. With Smith blocking several shots under Inglemoor’s net, Skyline continued to hold its opponents at bay through half the quarter while putting five points on the board. The Spartans held on to their lead, finishing the quarter out at 11-5.
“I think our first quarter really showed how much we wanted to win and how much effort we could put in,” Smith said. “We were moving the ball really well. We were playing really great on defense. We were executing our plays and everything.”
Inglemoor caught up with Skyline about half way through the second quarter and by the half were up 16-14 over the Spartans. Three minutes into the third quarter, the Vikings were up 20-19 when Skyline senior guard Lacey Nicholson landed a bucket to take the lead.
“I was hoping we’d catch a spark off of it,” Nicholson said.
Except for three free throws by Smith, Nicholson’s basket would be Skyline’s last in that quarter. In the meantime, Inglemoor went on a 15-point run to end the period at 35-24.
“We were definitely rushing our shots in the second half. We would come down and take our first shot,” Nicholson said. “We started becoming almost a little selfish because everyone wanted to win so bad, so we wanted to come down and get a quick shot off.”
Despite coming within three points of Inglemoor two and a half minutes into the fourth quarter, Skyline never quite caught up. When the game’s final buzzer reverberated out of the Tacoma Dome’s loud speakers, the Spartans’ basketball season was officially over.
“Yes, obviously I wanted to win that game, but I’m not going to hang my head about that. I am really proud of how far we made it,” Nicholson said. “The reason I am crying is because I am so proud. I’m a very emotional person, and I’m just really happy with my teammates. Everyone on this team really does love each other, and I think that’s huge for our success this season.”
Nicholson led the team in points that game by putting nine on the board. Smith scored eight; senior Rachel Shim and junior Shelby Kassuba each had six; and junior Bryn deVita scored five.
“This is my first time playing at the dome and this experience is nothing like I’ve experienced before. The atmosphere, the experience, everything is so much fun. And I’m really glad I got to experience it with these two,” Shim said before throwing her arm around Nicholson and Smith. “I wouldn’t have anybody else by my side.”
In his final post-game locker-room speech, Bruns spoke about his five seniors: Lindsay Coutts, Ali Mendezona, Nicholson, Shim and Smith.
“They played with class and integrity. They lead on the floor and they lead off the floor. They had empathy for their teammates. They were one of the main reasons we that we actually got to where we are,” he said. “We are one of the final eight teams in the state and we had a wonderful season.”