The Kamiakin High School girls basketball team had a clear goal when it started the season: get back to the Tacoma Dome.
That dream became a reality on Tuesday as the No. 7 Braves never trailed against the visiting No. 10 Garfield Bulldogs for a 76-54 victory in the glue-crossover game to book a berth in this weekend’s regionals and guarantee themselves at least a spot in the state tournament round of 12.
“The girls had that goal of wanting to get back to Tacoma, and now that has been realized,” Kamiakin coach Lane Schumacher said. “I’m really proud of ’em. They battled all year and they’ve stepped up to the plate in the postseason games, and I hope we can take it a little bit further. We’re playing some pretty good basketball right now.”
Kamiakin (22-1) will play No. 2 seed Gig Harbor at 2 p.m. Saturday at Puyallup High School.
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The stars showed up for Kamiakin in this winner-to-state, loser-out game, as MCC Player of the Year Oumou Toure scored a game high 28 points, and her Co-Defensive Player of the Year, fellow sophomore guard Alexa Hazel, had 26.
“(Hazel) just kept it under control,” Schumacher said. “She made shots, she made 3s, she made lay-ins, she passed it well. And then Oumou started heating up. It was just a great team effort.”
Even after the Bulldogs turned it over on their first two possessions and Symone Brown hit two wide open layups on the other end for Kamiakin, the game was fairly tight for the first four minutes. Garfield’s Jayla Howard hit a lay-in midway through the period to it at 8-all.
But from there, a series of problems for the Bulldogs created a wave of opportunities for the Braves. Kamiakin’s press started to disrupt Garfield’s rhythm and forced turnovers, the Bulldogs missed several open shots in front of the basket and — most importantly — Garfield got into massive foul trouble.
“We knew they were going to be athletic, but I think we were just as athletic,” Schumacher said. “I need to go back and watch the film, but I think our speed gave them a lot of trouble too.”
Kamiakin went on a 15-2 run over the last 3:25 of the first quarter to take a 23-10 lead, then Toure got hot in the second quarter — scored 11 points — to lead 41-22 at halftime.
Meanwhile, Garfield picked up 14 fouls, four of which went against Emani Turner and three against Juanita Agosoto, both starters.
“Once they picked up two in the first quarter, and we saw that they were keeping those girls in, then we made sure that someone was going after them off the dribble,” Schumacher said. “They don’t use help-side defense very well, but they have good man pressure, but we’re pretty good at getting to the basket too.
“Pick your poison; you’re either going to foul or we’re going to get a lay-in.”
The Braves didn’t do much to pull away in the second half, but they never led by fewer than 15 points.
Samaiyah Tolliver played with four fouls for much of the second half, but knocked down three 3-pointers to lead the Bulldogs (17-9) with 21 points.
The winner of Saturday’s regional game gets a bye in the first round in Tacoma and goes straight to the quarterfinals. The loser plays March 1 in the round of 12.
“Obviously, (Gig Harbor) must be doing something right, they’re the No. 2 RPI team in the state,” Schumacher said. “We’re heading across the mountains for a long bus trip. Hopefully we can get it done, because that basically makes you the No. 2 seed.”
Without any seniors on the roster, Kamiakin took fifth in state last year. The Braves will make their seventh consecutive regional appearance.
GARFIELD: Williams 9, Davis, Brundridge 2, Agosoto 7, Howard 4, Gee, Samaiyah Tolliver 21, Mobley 4, Turner 7. Totals: 21 9-17 54.
KAMIAKIN: Brown 4, Scherbarth 4, Larsen 4, Westermeyer, Holle 2, Clark 2, Alexa Hazel 26, Williams 6, Oumou Toure 28. Totals: 29 16-24 76.
Highlights — G, Tolliver 3 3pts. K, Toure 9x14 FTs.