Team effort leads Prairie girls to win at state

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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TACOMA — They were told by their coach to be ready, all of them, for the state tournament.

They were told that they would all be needed should the Prairie girls basketball team make it through four days of the Class 3A state tournament in the Tacoma Dome.

And Wednesday, the Falcons — indeed all of them — got the job done.

A lineup consisting mostly of reserves sparked the Falcons in the fourth quarter as Prairie rallied from a six-point deficit, beating Lynnwood 47-38 in the tournament’s opening round.

Andrea Smith’s three-point play ignited a 17-1 run to win the game for the Falcons, who held the Royals to 10 points in the second half.

“That was awesome,” said Smith, a sophomore who acknowledged being nervous in the post-game interviews with the media, but not in the game. “There is just so much adrenaline.”

Prairie (19-6) will face top-ranked Holy Names of Seattle (23-2) in Thursday’s quarterfinals. Tip-off is 3:30 p.m.

Lauren Goecke led the Falcons with 12 points, including a driving lay-up with 1:15 to play to give Prairie a 39-35 advantage. The cushion grew to 10 points before Lynnwood (14-13) made a late 3-pointer.

By then, the Falcons were celebrating, and giving credit to the unit that was on the floor that got it going for them.

Starter Jackie Lanz and reserves Smith, Megan Lindsley, Taylor Peacock, and Kat Vela — hassled the Royals all over the floor early in that final period, forcing turnovers or tough shots.

Meghan Cross, who led Lynnwood with 11 points, did get free for a 3-pointer with 6:35 left in the fourth quarter for a six-point lead. After that, though, is was all Prairie.

Smith responded with her three-point play, then Lanz connected on three free throws on Prairie’s next possession to tie the game.

The Falcons took the lead for good on a perfect lob pass over the defense from Vela to Lindsley, who made the layup for a 36-34 advantage with 3:55 remaining.

“It’s like one of the things I’ve been dreaming of since I was a kid, watching the state tournament,” Lindsley said. “Just playing as a team was a great feeling, knowing everybody contributed. Everybody has a part. It wasn’t just a few players.”

Soon after that shot, the starters returned for Prairie.

“We did our job on the court,” Vela said. “We put our time in, then the starters came back in and finished it up.”

Prairie coach Al Aldridge reminded his players after their final home practice Monday that all 11 in uniform would get in the game, and all of them were capable of playing solid basketball. Then he watched it happen.

“It was really nice to get some quality minutes from them,” Aldridge said. “They got us the lead back. Once we got it tied, the momentum shifted in our favor.”

Starting post Emily Rowe got a steal on the first play after her return to the floor, leading to a free throw by Michelle Bolliger. The Prairie defense forced three more missed shots in a row before Lynnwood got a free throw to make it 37-35.

Goecke would then drive the lane and score on a strong move through traffic for that four-point advantage. Angela Gelhar and Goecke would each make two free throws to extend the lead. Prairie was 9 of 10 from the line in that final period.

Lynnwood shot 15 percent from the floor — 3 of 20 — in the second half.

“If we don’t play good defense, we aren’t going to win,” Lindsley said. “We have to work our butts off on defense.”

Goecke was 4 for 8 and made two 3-pointers. She also had four assists and three steals. Lanz added eight points with five rebounds, Gelhar scored seven, and Smith finished with six points and two steals.

Prairie led 14-9 after the first quarter, but gave up 19 points in the second period to trail by six at the half.

Prairie’s defensive effort led to a 19-7 final quarter and a trip to the quarterfinals.