TACOMA — Heather Corral was nervous all day before Prairie’s game against University.
She had never played in a semifinal game. Her teammates had. They made it to the finals last year when Corral was injured. But Corral was the final four rookie Friday night.
Then she played like it was her own little playground.
Corral scored 13 of her 18 points in the first half, leading the Falcons to a 55-41 victory over University of Spokane in the Class 3A state girls basketball tournament at the Tacoma Dome.
Prairie (26-1) will take on Franklin of Seattle (24-3) in the finals. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m.
“I was surprisingly very nervous and jittery today,” Corral said. “I couldn’t eat. Couldn’t sleep.”
One by one, her teammates got her in the right frame of mind, with a pep talk here and there.
“They helped me,” Corral said. “Clearly, it helped.”
Corral was 7 for 11 from the floor, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range. Cori Woodward and Megan Lindsley each had 12 points, and Andrea Smith and Nicole Goecke played quality minutes off the bench to contribute to the cause.
The Falcons had a 23-point lead early in the fourth quarter before University (17-8) managed to get a few shots to drop in the final, meaningless minutes.
“I was pretty happy with the whole game,” Prairie coach Al Aldridge said. “We executed the defensive game plan very well. We caught University on an off shooting night, so it made us look even better. And on offense, we got rhythm shots.”
The whole game was played to a Prairie beat.
Corral’s first 3-pointer gave the Falcons a 12-3 lead. She had seven of those points. She had two more 3-pointers in the second quarter, pushing the Prairie lead to 11 by halftime.
In the third quarter, Goecke, Woodward, and Corral each connected on 3-pointers in a 90-second span, making it 43-22.
“Every game, we move the ball around and find who’s hot, and whoever is hot, that’s who we go to,” Corral said. “Once I’m guarded, we’re going to Megan, Cori, or Jackie (Lanz). Everyone is a great shooter.”
Woodward, though, could not understand University’s tactics.
“They just kept giving Heather the shot,” she said.
Kelsey Asplund led the Falcons with seven rebounds. The Falcons, usually a smaller team than their opponents, have had the edge in rebounding in both of their games in the dome. Lanz and Corral each had six rebounds.
Once the fourth quarter came around, it was just a matter of time to think about the next night’s game.
“It’s my last year. I really want to finish strong with a great season,” said Andrea Smith, who had five points and five rebounds off the bench.
A great season to the Falcons is a state championship. Not second place like last year.
“I don’t want to feel that again,” said Woodward, a junior. “I love my team, and we’ve worked so hard to get here, and I want to finish on a good note.”
“For everyone on this team, it’s a big deal,” Corral added. “But especially for the seniors, it’s our last shot. We’re going to give it our all and see what happens.”
This will be Prairie’s 12th championship game appearance in the program’s history. The Falcons have five state championships, with the last coming in 2003.
PRAIRIE 55, UNIVERSITY 41
PRAIRIE (26-1) — Heather Corral 18, Cori Woodward 12, Megan Lindsley 12, Andrea Smith 5, Jackie Lanz 5, Nicole Goecke 3, Lindsay Asplund 0, Kelsey Asplund 0, Mary Banks 0, Emily Peters 0, Rachel Deaton 0, Aleah Walz 0. Totals 17-45 (9-24) 12-21 55.
UNIVERSITY (17-8) — Hallie Gennett 14, Kayleigh Valley 11, McKenzie Peterson 5, Lexi Clark 4, Shelby Rotchford 4, Cassie Shillam 2, Morgan Hawley 1, Taylor Berdar 0, Kaitlyn Clutter 0, Paige Thorton 0, Ashley Woods 0, Kylie Collins 0. Totals 13-45 (3-21) 12-20 41.
Prairie 16 13 14 12—55
University 8 10 6 17—41