TACOMA — The Chiawana girls smiled through clenched teeth following their 61-57 loss Saturday to Bellarmine Prep in the fourth-place game at the 4A state basketball tournament.
The Riverhawks were proud of their seventh-place finish in the first year of the school’s history.
But their forced smiles for the trophy presentation showed the frustration of knowing how close they were to a top-four finish — and just how much work there is still to go.
“It was pretty hard,” said junior Hayley Hodgins, who scored a game-high 21 points. “All of us really wanted fourth. We battled the whole game for it, led most of the way, but just couldn’t hold on long enough.”
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All 12 players return next season for the Riverhawks (25-5), whose losses in the playoffs were to the first-, second- and fourth-place teams at state.
“We all need to work on being better basketball players,” Hodgins said. “We all need to work on our skills so we can work toward our ultimate goal, which is being in the final next year.”
Mikaela Rivard, who followed up her season-high 24 points in Friday’s win over Lake Stevens with 19 against Bellarmine (21-7), narrowed her focus even further when discussing areas of improvement for the offseason.
“Turnovers,” she said. “We had a lot of turnovers during the tournament (75, most of any trophy-winning team, including 17 vs. the Lions). If we can just cut those down … everyone needs to be able to take care of the ball.”
It was turnovers and fouls that cost Chiawana the win Saturday. The Riverhawks led 37-28 midway through the third quarter, but three steals fueled a 14-2 Lions run that gave them their first lead, 42-39 with 1:32 left in the period.
The Riverhawks fought back with Rivard hitting four straight baskets to put them back on top 47-42 early in the fourth. They nursed that lead until a steal by Nyzhe Primas led to a layin by Sarah Hartwell with 1:33 left, putting the Lions ahead 54-53.
Two more turnovers in the final minute, along with Prep hitting 7 of 8 free throws, sealed Chiawana’s fate.
“I’m not going to make the excuse that we’re young anymore,” said Chiawana coach Steve Davis. “Teams get up into us, and we start to press, get rid of the ball too fast.”
Bellarmine made only two baskets in the fourth quarter but went 14-of-18 at the foul line to rally. For the game, the Lions were 30-of-39 on free throws to Chiawana’s 17-of-19.
Shelby Ellsworth added 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Riverhawks. Mechela Barnes led Bellarmine with 14 points.
“Seventh is a huge accomplishment for us, but it’s not what we were looking for,” said Davis, who earned the third state trophy of his nine-year coaching career. “I want us to get to the level it takes to compete here for a title, and that takes work in the summer.
“The nice thing is we’re not done. There wasn’t any crying because they all know they’re coming back. And if everybody works hard this summer, they have one more chance.”
Edmonds-Woodway 44, Moses Lake 38
Tiffany Morris doesn’t have one more chance.
The tears bubbling in the Moses Lake senior’s eyes stemmed from her team’s comeback in the fifth-place game coming up just short in her final game.
The Chiefs (17-14) finished eighth, trophying for the third straight year at state.
“It’s been a real good experience,” said Morris, who hit four 3-pointers and scored a game-high 14 points. “It was great fo finish out my senior year at state placing. We definitely proved people wrong who ever doubted us.”
Edmonds-Woodway (25-3) led 40-26 late in the third quarter, then was held scoreless for almost seven minutes as Moses Lake went on a 12-0 run to close within 40-38 on Morris’ driving basket with 4 1/2 minutes left.
But the Chiefs missed on seven opportunities to tie or take the lead, the last when Morris’ 3-pointer with 16 seconds left rattled out. Angela Woods hit a pair of free throws to put E-W back up five, 43-38 with 12.9 seconds left.
“This was a good experience for us to build on,” said ML coach Matt Strophy, who returns six players — including starters Jordan Loera and Kayla Bernsen. “We had three freshmen here who were along for the ride to get the experience, and that’ll pay off just like it did this year.”