TACOMA — With 14 seconds left and a state championship to be won, the Skyview plan was nothing special.
“Take the last shot of the game and win,” explained Stephanie McDonagh.
Tied 43-43 with Central Valley of Veradale in Saturday’s Class 4A girls basketball state championship game, Skyview coach Jennifer Buscher told her players to be patient, look for opportunities to drive to the basket, and take the open shot when it presented itself.
“Hit any shooter on the floor. That’s kind of been our motto all year,” the coach said.
“Shoot it. If it feels like leather, shoot it.”
Senior Brooke Bowen inbounded the ball and circled under the basket in an attempt to get open. No go.
After a couple of passes, the ball came to McDonagh on the right side of the key. She drove strong to the hoop but couldn’t find a gap to shoot. What she did see as she stumbled through the key was fellow sophomore Aubrey Ward-El standing alone.
“The plan was to take it to the hoop and get fouled if you could, make the shot,” said McDonagh, who hit the game-winner in the Storm’s Thursday quarterfinal win. “I couldn’t get to the hoop, and Aubrey was open for the shot.”
Ward-El had taken 10 shots in the game and not made a one of them. She was aware she had not scored, but there was no hesitation when the ball came to her.
“I guess I just picked the right time to score,” Ward-El said.
Her 3-point shot went cleanly through the Tacoma Dome twine with one second on the clock, and moments later she and her teammates were taking turns cutting down the nets as state champions.
“It was supposed to go to one of our shooters, mostly for Stephanie or Brooke,” Ward-El said of the plan. “I think (Central Valley) knew it was going to go to one of them, so they covered those two pretty tightly. Steph drove and I just kept shifting so nobody was on me.”
Like all teams, the Storm regularly practice end-game situations.
“We work on those special situations quite a bit,” Ward-El said. “But you’re supposed to take it just like any other shot don’t do anything special.”
Ward-El said her mind was blank as she watched the ball go through the hoop.
“I just saw a bunch of people’s arms go up, and it got really loud,” she said.
And she realized she had just done something very special.