TACOMA — She won’t be in the headlines.
She won’t be in the spotlight.
She won’t be remembered as the star of Skyview’s scintillating victory Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A girls state basketball tournament.
But as the Storm celebrated a 55-54 win over Federal Way, as they advanced to the Final Four for the first time in the program’s history, they could thank sophomore Aubrey Ward-El for providing perhaps the biggest lesson of the afternoon.
It was Ward-El, you see, who made a 3-pointer when Skyview desperately needed one. And it was Ward-El who reminded everybody that an avalanche can start with a single step.
“We panic, but it’s like a relaxed panic,” Ward-El said. “We channel it into something positive. We thought, ‘This is what we practice for.’ We were confident we were going to come out with a win.”
So, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Maybe we should have expected Skyview to rally from a 30-22 deficit midway through the third quarter.
Make no mistake, the Storm were desperate, teetering on that precipice where a lesser team might fall off the cliff.
They had watched Federal Way go on an 18-5 run. They had struggled to get the ball in the basket. They had reached that point where everybody in the building could feel the game slipping away.
Everybody, that is, except the players and the coaches.
“The kids are just believers, and they work so hard,” Skyview coach Jennifer Buscher said. “The great thing about this team is it’s always somebody different.”
Ward-El started it with that 3-pointer. Brooke Bowen forced a turnover and followed with a basket. Katie Swanson made 1 of 2 free throws, and Bowen later added another basket. Jocelyn Adams got a steal, Stephanie McDonagh scored on a rebound, Bowen drew a charging foul, and Swanson scored inside.
In the span of three minutes, the Storm had gone on a 12-0 run, and Bowen added another hoop before the quarter was out.
It all started with Ward-El’s 3-pointer.
“That small of a shot was enough to get us rolling,” she said. “We kind of got our spirits picked up. I definitely didn’t think it would have that big of an impact.”
Or, as Bowen said, “Whenever the game is not going our way, one person on the team will do something, and we’ll get in a flow, we’ll get in a groove.”
Such is the beauty of sports.
Ward-El wasn’t the star Thursday. That spot was reserved for McDonagh, whose 3-pointer with four seconds to play was the game-winner. Or maybe it was reserved for Bowen, who scored a game-high 20 points and provided life-support for Skyview’s offense for a long stretch.
But the game isn’t won by stars; it’s won by those small moments that might seem insignificant at the time.
“Everybody fulfills their role,” Buschert said. “We talk about that during the season.”
It’s likely that every coach in Tacoma this week says the same thing. It’s unlikely they get to see it play out so vividly.
Headlines? Spotlights? Those things go to the players who shine at the end of the game. But sometimes they need to be lifted by their teammates in order to get noticed.
Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at email@example.com. To read his blog, go to columbian.com/weblogs/GregJayne