The Hardwood Classic couldn’t have started much worse for the Kamiakin High School girls basketball team, as the Braves fell to Mercer Island in Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup.
But for a team that didn’t have to face too much adversity throughout the season — losing only to Class 4A state finalist Moses Lake in the regular season and easily winning Mid-Columbia Conference and MCC-GSL 3A sub-regional championships — Kamiakin sure showed a lot of grit at the Tacoma Dome.
The No. 7 Braves got to end their stellar season in the way few teams do — with a win — a 64-62 overtime affair against No. 10 Lynnwood on Saturday morning to place fourth. Kamiakin controlled the score and pace for three quarters, faltered down the stretch, and then made a miraculous recovery culminating in Chanceler Williams’ putback at the buzzer for the win.
“Being able to play on the last day possible, over every team in the state of Washington, is one of the best feelings ever,” Kamiakin senior guard Kendyl Holle said. “And getting the win is even better. We wanted to play in the championship game, but getting to place fourth was better than last year, so we’re pleased.”
The fourth-place trophy wasn’t necessarily the hardware the young Braves were hoping for when they arrived here this week, but it’s still an improvement on last year’s fifth-place finish.
“Our goal is that we wanted to be playing on Saturday,” Kamiakin coach Lane Schumacher said. “We were here last year and finished fifth, we’re here this year and finished fourth. So hey, we’ll take it. Great year.”
Despite a slow start, sophomore guard Oumou Toure led Kamiakin with 27 points (20 after halftime) and seemed to come alive every time the Braves (25-2) needed a spark.
After never trailing in the first three quarters and leading by as many as 15 points in the first half, Kamiakin finally surrendered its advantage with 4:40 to go in regulation when Lynnwood (22-6) was in the middle of a 15-2 run. The Royals took their first lead at 41-40 on a layup by Kaprice Boston, and stretched that to 50-42 on a free throw by Reilly Walsh with 1:25 left.
“They weren’t turning the ball over, and all of a sudden shots weren’t falling for us,” Schumacher said. “I don’t know if it was the legs or what, but all of a sudden we were in a slump. And they were beating us in transition a few times.”
But Kamiakin wasn’t ready to give in. After the Braves shaved Lynnwood’s lead to seven with a minute to go, Toure decided to take the game over.
She got to the free-throw line with 55 seconds left and knocked down a pair, and after Lynnwood’s Taylor Fahey missed two from the stripe, Toure got fouled after her defensive rebound and made two more free throws to cut Lynnwood’s lead to 51-48 with 51 seconds left.
Then Toure helped on the double team of a Royal player on the ensuing rebound, who was trying to give herself up for an intentional foul. Toure got a hand on the ball and the officials gave alternating possession to the Braves. Toure took the inbounds pass, drove to the basket, made a layup and was fouled. After making her fifth free throw in 14 seconds, the score was tied at 51-all with 39 seconds to go.
Lynnwood’s Kelsey Rogers — who had game highs with 29 points and 14 rebounds — made two free throws to give Lynnwood a two-point lead with 28 seconds to go, but Toure took the inbounds and drove the length of the floor to answer with a layup and tie it at 53-all, which would eventually send the game to overtime.
“I said we’ve gotta get some turnovers and get back in this thing; we’ve been doing it all year,” Schumacher said. “And then if we don’t get the turnovers, we foul. Well they started missing some free throws, and that gave us an opportunity and we grabbed it.
“(Toure) was looking a little tired to me after our third game in a row, but she got her second wind. She’s one of the best players in 3A, and she proved it again today.”
Kamiakin only made six 3-pointers in the contest, but three of them came in the four-minute overtime period and all were hugely important.
Rylie Clark knocked down her first 3 a minute into the session to give the Braves a 56-55 lead. Her second came 50 seconds later to put them up 59-57.
Lynnwood went on a 4-0 run to lead 64-61 with 30 seconds to go, which felt like it could be enough to get the win. But senior Kiley Larsen had other plans, as she drained a 3 from the top of the arc to tie it up once again.
“It was a great feeling (to hit the 3),” Larsen said. “I knew our team was going to come back. And once it went into overtime, I had a good feeling we’d win that game.”
Toure got a steal in the back court and earned Kamiakin the last possession. She dribbled at the top of the arc and drained the clock, but missed her layup attempt.
Fortunately, Williams was there to collect the rebound, and she laid the ball of the glass and through the net as the buzzer sounded to give Kamiakin the win.
LAST TIME IN THE SCARLET AND GOLD
Holle and Larsen both fought back tears while reflecting on their time at Kamiakin.
The Braves have had a lot of good times to remember in past years, considering this is the seventh consecutive season they’ve made it at least to the regional round of state.
But as great as the teams and the play has been, what stood out most to Kamiakin’s graduating seniors didn’t have to do with what happened on the court.
“Kiley and I got to be captains for two years and watched all these girls grow,” Holle said. “We get along pretty well, and all the team dinners we have, and jamming out to music together, and our dance parties. I’m gonna miss it all.”
“We all get along so well,” Larsen said. “I’m gonna miss it so much.”
LYNNWOOD: Re.Walsh 9, Ra.Walsh, N.Boston 6, Kirkman, Kelsey Rogers 29, Bell 2, Kaprice Boston 20, Fahey, Morgan, Crawford. Totals: 24-62 16-24 64.
KAMIAKIN: Brown 6, Scherbarth, Larsen 6, Holle, Clark 8, Hazel 9, C.Williams 4, Oumou Toure 27, J.Williams 6. Totals: 24-76 12-18 66.
Highlights — L, Rogers 6 blks, 14 rebs, 11x13 FTs; Reilly Walsh 12 rebs; Valerie Bell 4 asts. K, Toure 5 stls, 7x10FTs; Kiley Larsen 2x4 3pts; Rylie Clark 2x5 3pts; Jayden Williams 2x3 3pts.