TACOMA — For 12 minutes Wednesday afternoon, the Chiawana girls hardly looked like a team belonging at the 4A state basketball tournament.
Then the Riverhawks started playing like the league and district champions they were, and they came back to defeat Federal Way 43-40 in a first-round game at the Tacoma Dome.
“We played like a bunch of fifth-graders that first quarter,” said Riverhawks coach Steve Davis. “But this is the state tournament. I’m proud of the way they finished the game. The first quarter doesn’t matter now.”
What does matter now is that the Riverhawks (24-3) face Auburn Riverside in today’s quarterfinals at 5 p.m.
The Ravens (26-0), ranked 22th in the nation by USA Today and 18th by ESPN/Rise.com, survived an upset bid by Edmonds-Woodway, pulling away for a 51-39 win.
“I am so super-excited about playing them,” said junior Shelby Ellsworth, who led Chiawana with 13 points. “You hear so much about them. I can’t wait to see what they have.”
Chiawana earned that chance by closing Wednesday’s game on a 12-1 run, erasing a 39-31 deficit with 4:44 to play.
Kendyl Reynolds hit two free throws with 1:10 left to give Chiawana its first lead of the game, 40-39.
Mikaela Rivard added a foul shot with 23.8 seconds left, and after Chantel Dixon could hit only 1 of 2 at the line for FW with 4.2 seconds left, Hayley Hodgins buried a pair of free throws with 1.4 seconds left to seal the win.
“That first quarter wasn’t fun,” Rivard said. “But we kept on fighting. We finished this game. A win is a win. That’s all that really counts.”
Chiawana opened the contest with about the worst case of first-game jitters a team could have.
At one point, the Riverhawks had 15 turnovers and just eight points, trailing by 11 to a team that beat them 55-46 in late December.
“At the begining, we didn’t believe we could beat them,” Hodgins said. “We were playing too fast and rushing a lot of stuff. We needed to slow down and play our game.”
Chiawana started doing that late in the first half, settling into their offense and finding open looks for Hodgins, who hit a pair of jumpers to draw the Riverhawks within 21-14 at halftime.
“Our defense was keeping us in the game,” Davis said. “We just had to make some shots.”
The Riverhawks trailed 25-14 early in the third quarter and after getting within 32-31 on two Melanie Valdez free throws with 6:25 left, FW used a 7-0 run to regain control.
At that point, Davis called timeout and reminded his team, “Hey, we’ve been down eight before and come back. If we can just get over the hump, we’ll win.”
At the same time, FW star point guard Darah Huertas-Vining (13 points) limped to the bench, never to return, after she rolled her right ankle on a foot during the fast break prior to the timeout.
Eagles coach Dan Graham refused to use the injury as an excuse, but the Eagles didn’t score a basket the rest of the game with Huertas-Vining in sweats, icing her ankle on the bench.
“We’ve been missing people all year long,” Graham said. “They just made the plays at the end and we didn’t.”
Ellsworth buried a 3 from the left corner with 3:48 to play to start Chiawana’s final push. Her layin cut the deficit to 39-37 with 2:45 left.
“Shelby finally started doing what she did at regionals, penetrating and hitting some shots,” Davis said.
Hodgins and Rivard had nine points apiece, with Hodgins and Sadie Sparks each pulling down eight rebounds as Chiawana outrebounded FW 35-30. ... After the slow start, Chiawana ended up with 21 turnovers, the same number as FW. The Riverhawks scored 20 points off turnovers, FW 17 ... Talia Walton had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Eagles. Walton, a 6-foot-2 junior who is drawing attention from several D-I schools, was just 5-of-18 from the field being guarded most of the game by either Rivard or Sparks. Rivard had two big steals late in the game while checking Walton.
CHIAWANA — Sparks 2, Ellsworth 13, Valdez 6, Hodgins 9, Rivard 9, Kelly, White, Loving, Reynolds 4. Totals 13-42 16-20 43.
FEDERAL WAY — Huertas-Vining 13, Walton 10, Campbell 2, Barrington 6, Dixon 3, Jones 2, Belhumeur 4, Fuller. Totals 17-49 3-7 40.
Chiawana 4 10 11 18 — 43
Federal Way 12 9 9 10 — 40
Highlights — Melanie Valdez 4 stls; Hayley Hodgins 8 rbs; Mikaela Rivard 5 rbs, 3 stls, 3 blks; Sadie Sparks 8 rbs.