Marissa Cortes scored 21 points, Brooke Wheeler had a double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds, and the No. 9 Prosser High School girls basketball team came back to beat No. 16 Franklin Pierce 56-49 on Friday in a loser-out regional game at Chiawana High School.
“This is amazing for us right now,” said Cortes, a sophomore point guard. “It’s crazy just to think that we’ve gotten this far, all the hard work that we’ve put in. We really wanted this.”
The win advanced the Mustangs (18-4) to the state tournament’s round of 12 next week at the Yakima SunDome, which they haven’t been to since winning the state title in 2011.
“Credit to those kids,” fourth-year coach Kyler Bachofner said. “I think we started my first year off with two wins, and to now be playing at the SunDome. The dedication and the hard work of those ladies out there, I couldn’t be luckier than to be a part of this program.”
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Even as the bearers of the state’s lowest seed — per RPI — in the state regionals, Franklin Pierce (15-10) wasn’t going to be a pushover for Prosser.
The Cardinals never trailed in the first half, and even when things started to go wrong in the second, senior Alexius Foster — who said she’s gotten some offers from community and junior colleges to play next year — kept giving them a chance.
She wound up scoring a game-high 32 points and was 10 of 12 from the free throw line.
“We were just trying to slow her down as much as we can,” said Wheeler, a junior center. “We knew we couldn’t stop her from scoring, but it’s more just like, try to keep her from having 30.”
Cortes had quite the sharp shooting day of her own, going 4 of 8 from 3-point range and hitting 7 of 10 free throws to get to her team-high point total. And much of that scoring came late in the game.
The Mustangs didn’t lead until Ashley Magana hit a jump shot with 3:45 to go in the third, which gave them a 35-34 edge, and a 3 by Cortes furthered that advantage. But the Cardinals rattled off seven straight to lead 41-40 heading into the fourth, and Foster kept pushing to get them ahead by five with under four minutes to go.
That was when Prosser started to dominate on the boards and score in the paint, and Wheeler scored five points in the Mustangs’ 7-2 run to tie it at 49-all with 1:48 to play.
“I was just trying to find the open gap so that I could score,” said Wheeler, who combined with Ali Cox — who had 15 rebounds — helped the Mustangs beat the Cardinals 54-33 on the boards.
So it came down to pressure free throws and defense, which battle-tested Prosser — the No. 2 team out of the brutally difficult CWAC — looked built for. The Mustangs had a less than banner day at the charity stripe overall (16 of 31), but went 10 of 14 when it counted most, in the last 3:20.
“It’s that mentality that, if I miss this first one, then I’ve gotta make the second one,” Cortes said. “You’ve just gotta keep shooting.”
With Prosser leading 50-49 with 1:10 to go, Cortes and Brandi Groeneveld hit on 5 of 6 attempts to pull away for a more comfortable victory. The Mustangs ended the game on a 13-2 run.
“At no point did we feel like we were out of this,” Bachofner said. “We knew that, come fourth quarter, that we’ve been tested, we transition well, we’re in good shape, and we knew we could pull ahead.
“Hats off to those young ladies, because they stuck with it and fought through. And they’re a young team, so to have a moment like this, I just couldn’t be prouder.”
Prosser will play the loser of a game between No. 8 Archbishop Murphy and No. 1 Black Hills, at 9 p.m. Wednesday in the round of 12.
FRANKLIN PIERCE: Ehrmann, Porter, Meach 6, Maynard 9, J.Sims, Colbray 2, Alexius Foster 32. Totals: 17-41 13-21 49.
PROSSER: Cox 7, Stallcop, Marissa Corts 21, Magana 2, Groeneveld 3, Brooke Wheeler 16, Rodriguez, Olivarez 7. Totals: 17-69 16-31 56.
Highlights — FP, Kaylee Meach 10 rebs, 3 stls; Foster 10x12 FTs. P, Cortes 4 asts, 5 stls, 4x8 3pts, 7x10 FTs; Brooke Wheeler 16 rebs; Ali Cox 15 rebs; Asia Olivarez 4 stls.