The Issaquah girls basketball team opened the 4A state tournament with a convincing 57-35 victory over the Kentridge Chargers in a loser-out game on March. 4 at the Tacoma Dome.
The win sets up a showdown with the Central Valley Bears in the quarterfinals at 12:15 p.m. on March 5 in Tacoma.
Against the Chargers, the Eagles rose to the occasion on the big stage, with Alivia Stephens (14 points) and Katie MacNary (10 points and 10 rebounds) leading the way. With an extra emphasis being put on defense this time of the season, the Issaquah defense stifled the Chargers. Issaquah held Kentridge to 35 points, their second lowest point total of the season.
“We talked about taking that energy and pouring it into defense and I thought we did that well,” Issaquah head coach Doug Crandall said.
In the first half, senior MacNary led the way for the Eagles with eight points to give them a 21-15 halftime lead. MacNary has been a huge part of the Eagles postseason run.
“(MacNary) has been amazing ,” Crandall said. “She’s a senior and she’s playing like a senior. She’s just getting it done and it’s awesome to see.”
In the second half, the Eagles pulled away, thanks in large part to Stephens who scored 11 of her 14 points in the second half. After going 1-for-9 from the field in the first half, the junior forward went 5-for-8 in the second half. Stephens said it was important for the team to come out strong in the third quarter.
“I realized we really needed to keep that lead and step it up,” Stephens said. “Katie MacNary really helped us set that tone in the first half.”
Crandall said he was happy with the effort that he saw from the team, fighting for loose balls and chasing down rebounds. Issaquah sophomore Mercedes Tinder embodied that toughness, pulling down nine rebounds in 13 minutes on the court.
“There were some girls really battling for basketballs,” Crandall said. “I think our effort was great throughout the game.”
The win guaranteed the Eagles at least two more games together, which is something that the Eagles used as motivation heading into their showdown with the Chargers.
“We really love what we’re doing right now,” Crandall said. “None of us wants this to end. We’re incredibly excited to have two more days and hopefully three.”
The Eagles will have their hands full against the Central Valley Bears, a team that hasn’t lost a game since Jan. 7. Crandall said Central Valley, like many teams from Spokane, are built for the postseason.
“I talked to our girls in November about how so many Spokane teams win so many of these things because they play good basketball, they play good defense,” Crandall said.
Stephens said the Bears are different than the teams they’re used to facing, which is a good challenge.
“They’re stronger than most of the teams we’re playing,” Stephens said. “A lot of teams have an individual, where you’re focused on one player, but we’re focused on their whole team.”
Going up against a tough opponent is nothing new for the Eagles, who have battled with some of the other top teams in the state. Crandall said that will give them confidence against the Bears.
“We know they’re good, but we’ve gone toe-to-toe with some really good teams,” Crandall said. “I believe our girls won’t be afraid. They’ll respect who Central Valley is and we’ll see what happens.”