West Seattle girls continue state title quest
By Gerardo Bolong
TACOMA - The West Seattle girls basketball team took it to the limit again before emerging with a hard fought loser-out win in a Wed., Feb. 27, game on the Tacoma Dome Court.
Clinging to a 46-45 lead against Arlington with 1:21 left in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats had to rely on poise and experience to pass another obstacle in their path to a possible state title.
Jasmine Gayles was called for an offensive foul at the 1:12 mark, but the Eagles turned the ball over and later missed from the field to give the Westsiders an inbounds play from back court 23 seconds later.
West Seattle worked the ball up the court until Grace Sarver found an opening to dish a pass to Anisa Babitu for a left side lay up with 38 seconds left and the Wildcats were up by 48-45.
"It was all Grace," said Babitu. "She made the play and I took it. It was just playing basketball."
After Arlington missed from three-point range, Gayles rebounded for West Seattle.
Gayles converted both free throws on an intentional foul call with 16.9 seconds left.
West Seattle was unable to convert the front end of a one-and-one charity toss, but steady Sarver ranged far to capture the carom to close out another near cardiac arrest situation for the Wildcats in a 50-45 victory at the WIAA/Dairy Farmers of Washington/Les Schwab Tires 2019 state Hardwood Classic basketball tournament.
West Seattle normally faces teams that have a height advantage.
Against Arlington, WSHS encountered a team that depended upon speed and outside shots instead of power basketball.
The similarity to their own tactics gave the Wildcats fits from the opening tip off.
Both teams pressured the ball until a cold shooting stretch by WS led to four consecutive Eagle points and a 13-9 Arlington lead after one quarter.
Cranking up their own brand of intensity to open the second quarter, the Westsiders transitioned well to offense.
Julianna Horne got things rolling with a left side three-ball. Gayles added two free throws ahead of a Meghan Fiso three-point goal as WSHS assumed a 17-13 lead just two minutes into the quarter.
Arlington fired back to grab an 18-17 lead, but Gayles then took charge for the Wildcats.
She began on three free throws out of four before adding a breakaway lay up at 3:19 until halftime.
Jayla Wilson and Babitu were in the game, allowing Fiso and Sarver to rest until intermission.
Gayles posted inside to earn a three-point play, pushing the WS lead to 25-18 with 1:55 showing on the clock.
Following an Arlington free throw, Wilson scored from the wing. A Horne charity toss made the score 28-19 ahead of two Eagle free throws that made the halftime score 28-21.
Just more than two minutes elapsed in the second half with both teams struggling to score.
Josie Stupey notched an AHS basket only to be countered by a Gayles pass to Horne for a lay up.
Gayles earned a basket before Sarver converted the first of two free throws to put the Wildcats into a 33-28 lead with 3:12 in the third quarter.
Keira Marsh downed her only three-pointer for Arlington only to be answered by a Gayles bucket and a Sarver assist to Gayles hoop to build the margin to 38-28 with 2:14 until the fourth quarter.
Kelsey Lenzie dished off to Gayles, offsetting an Eagle two-pointer to keep the lead at 10 (40-30).
Back came Arlington to trail only 40-35 heading into the fateful fourth quarter.
With the Eagles misfiring from the field, Gayles opened the quarter on a WS put back basket.
Fiso fouled out with 5:22 after scoring five points, but her teammates responded well to the challenge.
Sarver’s breakaway lay up seven seconds later made the score 44-35.
Steals and breakaway baskets brought resilient Arlington within 44-41 at the 3:37 mark.
Sarver powered in for a basket, but the everpresent Eagles rallied again on a Hailey Hiatt three and a Stupey free throw as the 46-45 score set up the scintillating final action.
"Being able to be aggressive on defense against such a scrappy team and lock down mentally on a team that can score from outside was how we had to deal with it,” said Sarver who whipsawed her way to 11 points and four assists.
Five-foot, seven inch Gayles sometimes posts inside against taller opponents, but had a better opportunity against a team whose tallest player was five-foot, eight-inches tall.
”We have the ability to win close games because we’ve played together since grade school and keep our poise,” she said.
Gayles played like a giant for 23 points, including 9 of 10 from the free throw line and seven of 12 from the field. The WS stalwart also grabbed eight boards.
Point guard Horne contributed seven valuable points. Wilson and Babitu were also critical contributors at two points apiece.
Hiatt and Stupey scored 16 and 13 points, respectively for Arlington.
West Seattle (19-5) has a 2 pm, Thursday showdown against No. 2 Mt. Spokane.