YAKIMA — The Connell girls took one small step forward Wednesday in the first round of the 1A state basketball tournament at the Yakima SunDome.
But with a monumental 33-27 victory over defending 1A champion Seattle Christian, the Eagles took a huge leap into tournament history with one of the biggest upsets in recent memory.
Connell (17-8) held the Warriors (21-3) to their lowest point total of the season and their lowest output since a 72-27 loss to Auburn on December 3, 2007.
The loss also represented the first time a defending champion fell in the first round of the 1A state tournament since Goldendale beat Lynden Christian 48-43 to open the 1997 tourney.
"I told them about our history. We've accomplished things similar to this in the past," said Eagles coach Dan Colby, who led Connell to the 1A state title in 1994, the program's only state basketball championship.
The Eagles will face Okanogan (22-2) in the quarterfinals at 4 p.m. today.
Colby watched his team fall into a 10-4 hole after the first quarter after shooting 1-for-9 to open the game. But Connell turned the tide in the second quarter, holding SC to just one basket to take an 18-12 halftime lead.
"That was huge, because the girls started to believe," Colby said. "The kids played the heck out of the defensive end. We're not the best offensive team in the world, so we need to shut offensive teams down to have a chance."
Seattle Christian managed to put just two players in the scoring column, sophomore Katie Collier (15 points) and junior guard Lexi Peterson (12 points). They shot 33 percent (12-for-36) between them.
"You're talking about two Pac-10 quality players," Colby said. "That was great team defense."
The rest of the Warriors went 0-for-17 from the field.
Petersen hit just two of her first 15 shots and missed 11 3-pointers before finally hitting a big one to put the Warriors ahead 27-25 with 3:45 left to play in the game. That could have been a turning point against most other teams.
But for Connell, it was just another challenge to overcome in a season filled with them.
Maci Whitby hit a free throw to pull within 27-26 with 3:24 left, then took a pass on the baseline from Sarah McGary and hit the layin for a 28-27 lead.
"I was dead tired. Everyone kept saying, 'Just keep it going,' " McGary said. "It was a lot like last week (trailing 10-0 at the beginning of a 46-31 win over Columbia Burbank). This team plays with heart, and we never give up."
McGary, who led the Eagles with 14 points, then sank four clutch free throws over the final 1:18 to ice the win.
"I just did my routine," she said. "I practiced four years for this."
CONNELL — Laryn Wells 2, Sarah McGary 14, Gibbons 1, Whitby 5, Bjorge 8, Taylor, Riner, Easterday, Hawkins, Booker 3, Withers. Totals 9-43 13-26 33.
SEATTLE CHRISTIAN — Petersen 12, Kogle, Jansen, Shelton, Katie Collier 15, DeOrnellis, Johnson, Doyle, Gleason, Harris. Totals 12-53 2-4 27.
Connell 4 14 2 13 — 33
Seattle Christian 10 2 5 10 — 27
Highlights — Rebounds: C 48 (Laryn Wells 9), SC 36 (Collier 12); Turnovers: C 18, SC 17; 3-pointers: C 2x19 (Kayla Bjorge 1x4, Megan Booker 1x5), SC 1x20 (Lexie Petersen 1x11); Bjorge 7 rebs; Maci Whitby 6 rebs; McGary 5 rebs, 3 assists, 2 steals; Wells 3 steals; Gibbons 3 steals; Petersen 6 rebs, 5 steals; Collier 5 blocks.