Prairie’s defense rises to the occasion

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

Published:

 

Prairie Championship

TACOMA — The shots weren’t falling. The star player wasn’t getting a chance to score.

But there was really never a doubt that the Prairie Falcons were going to overwhelm the Franklin Quakers in Saturday’s Class 3A girls basketball state championship game.

Prairie forced Franklin into 25 turnovers 14 of them with steals and survived a tough shooting night to beat a physical opponent and claim the program’s sixth state title.

In her final high school game, tournament MVP Heather Corral had just one field goal and six points. But the future Washington Husky was a difference maker with six steals and five assists.

“They were keying on me, they were faceguarding me the whole game,” Corral said. “But Cori (Woodward) stepped up and scored double figures, Andrea (Smith) stepped up and made some key layups, and Megan (Lindsley) with made some big her free throws. Everyone stepped up and contributed.”

Prairie coach Al Aldridge called Corral a stabilizing force.

“She draws a crowd any time the ball is in her hand, which opens things up for other players,” Aldridge said. “They did a great job of defending her tonight, but she still did a good job of finding her teammates at the right time and helped them be successful.”

Franklin senior Jadea Brundidge had 15 points and 14 rebounds. The Falcons knew the 6-foot-2 post would be a handful, but they made the Quakers work to get the ball inside.

“We just did our best to stick with their physicality and we pulled through,” Prairie’s Jackie Lanz said.

Aldridge said he was very happy with his team’s defense.

“The game plan was to press them and get them out of rhythm so they couldn’t get the ball to Jadea, and I thought we accomplished that,” Aldridge said. “We got them out of rhythm, and got some easy baskets on turnovers and then played zone defense so they’d have trouble getting the ball inside.”

Prairie shot only 32 percent from the field (16 for 49) and was only 3 for 15 on 3-pointers. The Falcons missed 11 free throws. But they shot 30 of them because they stayed aggressive.

Franklin outrebounded Prairie 43-36, but shot only 28 percent and could never get a string of successful possessions.

“If the ball’s not falling on offense, you can always make up for it on defense, and that usually leads to transition for easy baskets on offense,” Lanz said. “We got some of those tonight and it really helped us.”

It more than helped, the defense lifted the Falcons to a state title.