TACOMA — Steve Davis bluntly assessed his Chiawana girls team’s chances of upsetting Auburn Riverside in Thursday’s 4A state quarterfinals.
“We’ll have to play the best game of our lives,” he predicted.
The Riverhawks did their coach proud. It just wasn’t enough.
The top-ranked Ravens held on for a 57-45 victory over Chiawana at the Tacoma Dome, sending the Riverhawks (24-4) into a 2 p.m. fourth-place semifinal today against Lake Stevens.
“The girls battled tonight. I told them how proud I was that they battled,” said Davis, whose team whittled a 16-point deficit to six in the final two minutes before misses at the free-throw line sealed their fate.
“We didn’t fold our tents in the third quarter. It came down to the end. We’re down six, but we don’t make our free throws down the stretch and they do.”
Mercedes Wetmore showed exactly why the University of Washington signed her in the fall, shrugging off the defensive effort of a determined Kendyl Reynolds to score a game-high 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting.
“That’s what a D-1 scorer looks like,” Davis said. “She can score at will, get her own shot. Kendyl played phenomenal defense on her, and Mercedes just made some shots that were unbelievable.”
Reynolds added, “I’d been matched up with Danielle (Walter), so I knew what was coming at me. Every stop I got, it built my confidence. She was just throwing up shots that went in, but I couldn’t get down on myself.”
Wetmore was equally effusive in her praise of the Riverhawks afterward.
“Chiawana was the toughest team we played all year,” she said.
Tougher than Federal Way, Kentwood, Lewis & Clark, Bellarmine Prep? She didn’t waver.
“They were the toughest,” she repeated. “They came out and played hard. Their posts and guards stepped up. They came at us tonight, but I’m proud of the way we fought back. They made a run at us, and we held our mud.”
Chiawana led only briefly in the game, the last time at 20-16 after a 3-pointer by Taylor White with 3:59 left in the first half.
AR answered with a 9-0 run to take a 25-20 lead into halftime.
Back-to-back baskets by Hayley Hodgins got the Riverhawks within 35-28 with 3:39 left in the third, but Kat Cooper scored seven in a row to spark a 13-4 run to put the Ravens (27-0) on top 48-32 a half-minute into the final period.
The lead was still 12 when the Riverhawks made their final push. Reynolds hit a pair of free throws, and Sadie Sparks hit a fallaway 6-footer to get Chiawana to within 50-42 with 3:42 left.
The Riverhawks got to the foul line four times in the final 2 minutes but could hit only 3 of 8 shots. Shelby Ellsworth hit 1 of 2 with 1:41 left to draw them to within 50-44, but AR went 7-of-8 at the line in the final minute to hold on.
“We dug ourselves a hole that we had to get out of,” said Hodgins, who led Chiawana with 13 points. “We just couldn’t get over the hump. We had chances with free throws that we didn’t capitalize.”
Both Hodgins and Reynolds predicted the Riverhawks would have a better ending than last year’s Pasco team — on which Hodgins was a starter — that lost in the quarterfinals, then came out flat in the consolation round and went home without a trophy.
“Hayley and Shelby were in the locker room, saying how we can’t do what we did last year,” Reynolds said. “This is the first year for our school, with no seniors, so to get fourth place, I’d be really happy.
“Then next year, we can come back even stronger.”
Shelby Ellsworth led the Riverhawks with nine rebounds. Mikaela Rivard added eight. Reynolds had a game-high six assists. ... Auburn Riverside is ranked No. 22 in the nation by USA Today and No. 18 by ESPN/Rise.com. ... Cooper, a junior post who finished with 13 points and three steals, already has received scholarship offers from UW and Northern Arizona. She will visit Louisville after the state tournament, and also is being recruited by Stanford, Oklahoma and Nebraska. "She takes you out to the 3-point line, and her shot is so quick," Davis said. "And then she takes you to the post. She's just phenomenal." ... Attendance for Thursday's quarterfinal and consolation action was 5,798.
Auburn Riverside 57, Chiawana 45
AUBURN RIVERSIDE — Wetmore 22, Clark 0, Hinkens 4, Jenkins 3, Crump 4, Penor 4, Wofford 2, Pretz 5, Cooper 13. Totals 21-53 12-14 57.
CHIAWANA — Reynolds 5, Kelly 0, Huisingh 0, Sparks 2, White 3, Ellsworth 9, Valdez 4, Hodgins 13, Rivard 9. Totals 15-42 12-18 45.
Chiawana 10 10 12 13 — 45
Auburn Riverside 14 11 21 11 — 57
Highlights — Wetmore 8 rbs, 5 asts, 4 stls; Shelby Ellsworth 9 rbs; Mikaela Rivard 8 rbs; Kendyl Reynolds 6 asts.