High School Sports

Connell girls advance to semis

YAKIMA -- What will the Connell girls basketball team do next?

What modern miracle could they possibly conjure up today after giving 1A state basketball fans -- for the second straight day -- yet another memorable lesson in the power of faith and teamwork?

On Wednesday, the Eagles shocked the SunDome with a 33-27 upset of top-ranked Seattle Christian. Thursday, they scored an inconceivable 44-40 comeback victory over fifth-ranked Okanogan after trailing 17-1 in the second quarter.

If there's one thing that Connell has taught the tournament's gathered masses, it's that nothing is impossible.

Especially for this group.

"I hadn't given up. I was hoping," said Eagles coach Dan Colby. "We've been down before, but never 17-1."

Connell (18-8) will face Granger (23-1) in the semifinals at 6 p.m. The Spartans have beaten the Eagles twice this year, once during the regular season (48-47) and once at districts (54-42). But with a shot at the state championship at stake, both teams will lay everything on the line.

"We've really come together this tournament," said senior guard Sarah McGary. "Anything is possible with this team."

Last week, in a game Connell needed to win to advance to state, the Eagles trailed Columbia-Burbank 10-0 to start the game before coming back for the victory. But even then, they were able to take advantage of an injury to a key Coyotes' player.

This time, they were facing a healthy, dangerous Okanogan team that appeared to be firing on all cylinders.

"I was wondering," McGary said, "if this might be too hard to overcome."

But slowly, momentum began to turn in the second quarter.

Maci Whitby hit a jumper -- the Eagles' first bucket of the game -- at 7:29 of the second quarter. Just over two minutes later, McGary scored on a pick and roll. On Connell's next possession, Whitby hit another jumper to cut it to 19-7.

The Eagles were rolling.

"The whole game, we never thought we could lose, especially after yesterday. I wanted to go through the game remembering that," said Whitby, who scored nine points during the second quarter -- including a 3-pointer in the final seconds -- to cut the Bulldogs' lead to 21-14 at the half. She finished with 15 points to lead Connell.

But the third quarter began ominously for the Eagles when McGary twisted an ankle and left the game with 6:52 left in the frame. Fortunately for Connell, the injury wasn't as severe as it looked, and she was back on the floor after a six-minute break.

Meanwhile, Okanogan's lead continued to shrink, and on Connell's first possession of the fourth quarter, Kayla Bjorge fed Whitby at the top of the key and Whitby drilled the trey to even the game at 30.

The Eagles grabbed their first lead with 5:34 left in the game, when Bjorge found Laryn Wells for a turnaround jumper in the lane to make it 32-30. Although the game remained tight until the end, Connell would not trail again from that point.

COnnell 44, Okanogan 40

OKANOGAN — Marchand 6, Kara Staggs 17, Harris, Townsend 9, Kerr 4, Reese, Schreckengost 2, Morelock, Behymer 2. Totals 13-45 11-16 40.

CONNELL — Bjorge, McGary 11, Gibbons 5, Wells 4, Maci Whitby 15, Taylor 2, Riner, Easterday, Booker 6, Withers 1. Totals 13-46 13-23 44.

Okanogan 15 6 9 10 — 40

Connell 1 13 13 17 — 44

Highlights — Rebounds: O 34 (Morgan Kerr 9), C 39 (Sarah McGary 9); Turnovers: O 11, C 11; 3-pointers: O 3x18 (Staggs 2x6), C 5x17 (Whitby 2x4, Megan Booker 2x5); Jameka Townsend 7 rebs; Brooke Gibbons 3 assists; Kayla Bjorge 4 steals.