That’s been the story for the Kamiakin High School girls basketball team at the state tournament the past couple years, established once again on Saturday when the Braves beat the Seattle Prep Panthers 57-45 at the Tacoma Dome to earn their second straight fourth-place finish at state.
“We were just really playing for our seniors,” Kamiakin’s Oumou Toure said. “Last game, we really wanted to win it for them. Even though we were disappointed (with Thursday’s loss), we just had to push through it.”
Kamiakin (23-3) found itself in the consolation bracket after losing Thursday on a buzzer-beater against Garfield, which played Gig Harbor for the state title later Saturday. The Braves beat top-ranked Lincoln 57-49 on Friday.
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“We need to get over the hump of that first game, that’s where we’ve been struggling a lot,” Toure said. “We’ve been getting the tough games.”
Last year, Kamiakin lost to eventual state champion Mercer Island in the quarterfinals.
Toure, Kamiakin’s career scoring champ and two-time MCC Player of the Year, put together another dynamic performance in Kamiakin’s final tilt of the season, posting game-highs with 19 points, 16 rebounds and four assists.
All four of Kamiakin’s seniors — Kylie Scherbarth, Chanceler Williams, Jayden Williams and Alexus Mercado — scored at least one point Saturday.
“In the locker room, it was kind of tear-jerking, just knowing this was going to be my last game with Kamiakin,” said Scherbarth, who scored six points. “But honestly, it’s just excitement. To come here and play hard with our team was awesome.
“I’m gonna miss the people, just the team being together. I’m a team-first person, and all of us have our own individual strengths, but together we’re able to create something awesome. We encourage each other and have fun, and we were able to succeed.”
Rylie Clark added 14 points and three assists for the Braves. Tamia Stricklin led Seattle Prep with 13 points, hitting 4 of 6 shots.
The game was up-tempo and evenly-matched in the first half, with Kamiakin scratching out a 29-27 lead at the break on a contested lay-in by Toure with 15 seconds left. The Braves came out of the locker room with an 11-2 surge that propelled them to lead the the rest of the way.
“We changed up our defense to the half-court trap we’ve been using the past couple games, and that got them scrambling a little bit more,” Kamiakin coach Lane Schumacher said. “They weren’t able to just pass the ball around the perimeter because they were getting double-teamed and had to get rid of it. And then we were able to get some transition baskets, and I think that opened it up.”
With Toure and fellow junior Alexa Hazel leading the way, the Braves are the only 3A girls team in the state to place in each of the past three tournaments, taking fifth in 2016.
“To be able to bounce back and finish fourth, it’s impressive,” Schumacher said. “It’s the third year in a row this group has finished at state, and that’s quite an accomplishment. ... It’s another great year. Co-league champions, regional champions and fourth in state. In most teams’ book, that’s pretty solid, and when you’re playing on the last Saturday of the season, that’s pretty great too.”
Next year, in Toure and Hazel’s senior campaign, they will try to lead Kamiakin to its second state title, with the first one coming in 1985.
KAMIAKIN: Scherbarth 6, Re.Clark, Rylie Clark 14, Hazel 9, Oumou Toure 19, Westermeyer, Kutschkau, C.Williams 4, Mercado 2, J.Williams 1, Schumacher. Totals: 19-54 17-26 57.
SEATTLE PREP: Sauvage 6, Tamia Stricklin 13, Moffitt 9, Petro 3, Bea Franklin 11, Frigon 1, Russell 2, Crudup, Teders, Dorscht. Totals: 16-51 9-13 45.
Highlights — K, Toure 16 reb, 4 ast. SP, Franklin 4 stl.