At the beginning of the season, the Issaquah girls basketball team set a goal of making it to the state tournament, but once the Eagles stepped onto the court at the Tacoma Dome, they wanted more.
After a second-round loss to Central Valley, the Eagles rattled off a pair of wins, including a 67-56 victory over the No. 2-seeded Todd Beamer Titans to take the fourth-place trophy on March 7 at the Tacoma Dome. The fourth-place finish ties the second-highest finish at state in program history.
Issaquah head coach Doug Crandall said he wouldn’t change the journey for a second, even the tough losses.
“It’s really cool when you set a goal way back in June to get to the Dome, other teams do that, it’s not unique, but to push and then to exceed it. I don’t think any of us really dreamed that we would be fourth,” Crandall said.
Senior guard Lauren Frueh said the experience of playing in the Tacoma Dome has been amazing.
“Just playing in the Dome was crazy and everything that you’ve dreamed about when you were a kid playing in the (Issaquah Girls Basketball Association),” Frueh said. “Winning three out of the four games has been crazy. We’re a 12 seed, we’re not supposed to even be here.”
Ever since their 72-55 loss to Central Valley in the quarterfinals on March 5, the Eagles set their sights on the fourth-place trophy. Crandall said the opportunity to finish the season with a win against the Todd Beamer Titans would be the perfect ending to their season.
“We had two days to think about how that trophy was now our goal,” Crandall said. “We went 3-1 here. It’s been super fun.”
In their 67-56 win over the Titans, Alivia Stephens led the scoring for the Eagles with 15 points along with eight rebounds. Seniors Katie MacNary (13 points and eight rebounds) and Frueh (11 points) also came up big for Issaquah.
The Eagles led by as much as eight in the first quarter against the Titans, taking a 15-11 lead into the second frame.
Issaquah opened the second quarter on fire, with sophomore Shea Dillon hitting a 3-pointer and Stephens hitting a pair from beyond the arc to give the Eagles a 24-11 lead. The Eagles defense held the Titans to four field goals in the first half, and Issaquah held a 33-16 lead at halftime.
Midway through the third quarter, sophomore Mercedes Tinder hit a pair of free throws to give the Eagles a 47-27 lead. In the fourth quarter, the Titans began to chip away at the Eagles’ lead. Todd Beamer’s Aaliyah Alexander led the charge for the Titans, scoring 12 of her game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter. The Titans cut the Eagles lead to 56-52 late in the fourth quarter, but MacNary made a clutch shot and Dillon made a pair of free throws to give them breathing room at 60-52 with 2:10 left. The Eagles held on for a 67-56 win to hoist the fourth-place trophy.
Crandall said Dillon’s free throws were huge, especially since she had missed a couple from the charity stripe during regionals.
“Today, in the Tacoma Dome, we’re up six, and (Dillon) hits two free throws,” Crandall said. “They got through it together. The resolve was amazing and I think we’ve developed that over the year.”
The Eagles have played together as a team all season, and Frueh said they had to come together even more to withstand the Titans’ rally. “Our whole team stepped up and we just came together even more,” Frueh said. “It was so stressful.”
After making it to the state tournament in his first season as the head coach at Issaquah, Crandall said they’re eager to get back again next year.
“After how much fun this way, it’s addicting,” Crandall said. “It’s addicting to see them so happy.”
For the three seniors; Frueh, MacNary and Katie Kellum, it was the final game playing for the Issaquah basketball team. Frueh said the team is in great hands in the future with their talented sophomores and juniors.
“I’m going to be texting them all the time (next season),” Frueh said. “I love all the sophomores and juniors. They’re such awesome people and it’s awesome to see them play better. I can’t wait to see what they do.”