YAKIMA -- Connell girls basketball coach Dan Colby stood outside the SunDome following the Eagles' 40-37 1A state loss to Granger in the fourth-sixth place game Saturday.
Connell had just collected its sixth trophy in the last nine seasons and 18th trophy in program history, but Colby didn't feel much like celebrating.
"It'll feel better later," Colby said, wiping his eyes. "When you have a game where you're somewhat in control, and then because you can't make shots, the ball gets real heavy. The frustration gets pretty high.
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The Eagles led 20-9 at halftime with the Spartans mired in a 1-for-20 shooting slump. So bad was the drought that Granger's top scorer, Italia Mengarelli, would finish the game 0-for-15 from the floor.
But Granger began to chip away in the second half. Fantasia Reyes hit the Spartans' first 3-pointer to cut Connell's lead back to 25-19 with 49 seconds left in the third quarter. The momentum really turned when Lynndel Wapsheli, a freshman guard, entered the game with one second remaining in the quarter, took the inbounds pass from Mengarelli and sank a 3 to bring Granger within 25-22 heading into the final quarter.
"We just wanted to get the lead cut down, and then try to win it in the fourth quarter," said Wapsheli, a freshman who finished with a team-high 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting. "It helped a lot having Italia there. She's a senior, and she's been here before."
Wapsheli hit two 3-pointers on the day, and both were huge. Her second tied the game at 27 with 6:52 left to play, and Martay Gunnier followed with two free throws to give the Spartans their first lead, 29-27.
"We needed to keep pushing the ball and keeping things going," said Connell post Brooke Gibbons, who scored 12 of her game-high 20 points in the second half.
Maci Whitby answered for the Eagles, hitting from long range to put Connell back in front 30-29 with 6:24 remaining. Mengarelli responded for Granger, hitting two free throws to give the Spartans a 31-30 lead. They would not trail again.
Mengarelli may have had a rough shooting night, but she was perfect from the free-throw line on 10 attempts. The Spartans were outstanding from the line as well, sinking 25 of 29 attempts (86 percent) from the stripe.
Gibbons scored a putback to pull Connell within 35-34 with 2:34 left to play and buried a 3 with 17 seconds left to bring the Eagles within one, 38-37.
"Actually, I was really surprised I hit that," Gibbons said. "At the beginning of the season, I didn't have any."