Alexa Smith, Erin Nicol and Heather Morris walked hand-in-hand back to the Issaquah bench Saturday night with smiles plastered on their faces.
The Eagle’s only three seniors rejoiced after locking up a trip to the state tournament – a place they last ventured as sophomores.
“We’re all best friends, so it feels good to all do it together and know that our season isn’t going to get cut short like it was last year,” said Nicol, referring to Issaquah’s early exit in the 2008 3A Sea-King District tournament.
The Eagles clinched their state berth with a 52-37 victory over Inglemoor in the second round of the KingCo 4A tournament.
“Obviously there’s things we can clean up, that we’re going to have to, but I’m happy for the girls,” head coach Kathy Gibson said. “I’m happy because the seniors get to go back, and I’m happy because all of our young girls get the experience.”
Issaquah used a fast start to build an early cushion over Inglemoor.
The Eagles were 8-for-13 (61 percent) from the floor in the first quarter and outscored the Vikings 9-2 in the final two minutes of the first for a 20-10 lead. Morris started the run with a back-to-back shots, a three-pointer and a layin, and Nicol laid a shot up and in before the buzzer for two of her seven first-quarter points. Issaquah didn’t have any turnovers in the first quarter, and only two in the first half.
“We came out with a lot of energy and I think that we executed on offense more than we usually do …,” Nicol said.
The Vikings pulled to within nine points, 30-21, in the third quarter, but the Eagles bumped their lead back up to double-digits for the remainder of the contest.
Issaquah struggled in the second half, committing 11 turnovers and knocking down just six field goals.
“We don’t play hesitant very well and we were hesitant,” Gibson said.
The Eagles saved themselves from the free-throw line, however, where they went 10-for-13 in the second half.
Nicol scored 12 points, 10 of which came in the first half. Sophomore Blaire Brady scored 12 points and shut down the Viking’s leading scorer Alex Nelson, holding her to just five points.
Issaquah improved to 16-6 overall and faces Eastlake (16-6) at 6:30 p.m., Friday at Juanita High School for the KingCo 4A championship. This is the third time in the last four years the Eagles have made the state tournament. They finished fourth place in 2007 and second in 2006. The 4A state tournament begins Wednesday, March 4 at the Tacoma Dome. First-round draws will be decided on Sunday, March 1.
Eastlake breaks 12-year drought
Eastlake broke through to the state tournament for the first time since 1997, beating Roosevelt 49-42 Saturday night at Juanita.
The accomplishment reaches a goal head coach Scott Sartious set when he started coaching at Eastlake three years ago.
“For it to actually happen within the time frame I set brings forward a spectacular feeling and immense pride,” he said. “Every time I think about the EHS girls basketball team going to the state tournament, I can’t help but break out in an enormous smile.”
Jena Boyle and Ellie Martinez led Eastlake with 12 points apiece. Alyssa Charlston and Hannah Ostic had eight apiece.
Eastlake improved to 16-6 overall and will play Issaquah at 6:30 p.m., Friday at Juanita for the KingCo 4A tournament championship.