Loss snaps Prairie's 15-year state tournament streak

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Prairie vs. Bellevue

TACOMA — The Tacoma Dome might not know what to do with itself next week.

No Prairie girls basketball team? Really?

It's true.

For the first time since 1997, the Prairie Falcons will not be in the Tacoma Dome for the state girls basketball tournament.

Bellevue used a 17-0 run in the fourth quarter Friday night at Mount Tahoma High School to wipe out a 10-point deficit, ending top-ranked Prairie's run with a 58-51 victory in a Class 3A regional playoff.

While this Prairie team did make it to the final 16 teams in the classification — and that used to count as making it to state — the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association now recognizes only the elite eight that make it to the dome as state participants.

Which means it is an end of an era.

It also ended in an uncharacteristic fashion for this program. The Falcons are known for closing out games, for making all the big shots, the big plays. Instead, it was Bellevue that outscored Prairie 23-9 in the fourth quarter.

Still, there was no finger-pointing in the Prairie locker room.

"Prairie basketball means family to me," said senior Megan Lindsley, who led Prairie with 17 points and five steals. "I've had so many good teammates. I don't know what I'd do without them. I'm so thankful I got to have the last four years with them. They mean everything to me."

"It means we are a team until the very end," said senior Cori Woodward, who scored 16 points. "That's all I want to say."

Prairie's defense forced 31 turnovers, but the offense committed 29 turnovers of its own and misfired almost all night. The Falcons finished 18 of 61 from the floor, 29.5 percent, and they were 6 of 26 from 3-point range.

Still, they found themselves in a position to win when they closed out the third quarter on a 13-3 run. Aislinn Konig, Woodward, and Megan Lindsley hit consecutive 3-pointers, and Emily Peters and Konig finished the quarter with lay-ups to give Prairie a 42-35 advantage.

A Nicole Goecke steal and lay-up followed by a 3-pointer from Lindsley made it 47-37 Prairie with 5:43 to play in the game.

That's when Bellevue made its move.

Mandy Steward, who led the Wolverines with 20 points, scored seven in a row during Bellevue's winning stretch. Later, she drained a 3-pointer for a 51-47 lead with 2:26 to play. The Wolverines would score three more points before Konig's offensive rebound and putback stopped the bleeding for Prairie at the 1:07 mark, making it 54-49.

The Falcons would get within four points and had the ball, but then missed a shot to get within one possession.

Bellevue's Tatiana Streun had 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Shelby Cansler dominated on defense with eight steals to go with her 14 points.

Cansler said she and her teammates were very aware of the score and time when Prairie seemed to be pulling away from them.

"We knew the only way to win was to lock it up on defense," Cansler said. "Keep calm and play like we know how to play."

The Wolverines also knew about Prairie's streak.

"It's crazy that we knocked them out," Cansler said.

Prairie coach Mike Smith said he was surprised by his team's struggles with the ball.

"Part of it was their defense, but our turnovers, that's not what we usually do," he said.

"Hand it to them. They played really well," he said of the Wolverines. "When we were up 10, I thought, 'We got this.' They went on a run. Big Mo switched over on us. It's tough."

Bellevue opened the game with a 7-0 run, but Prairie responded and had the lead by the end of the period, 17-13. The Falcons made 2 of 14 shots in the second quarter yet still maintained a four-point lead at the half.

The Wolverines would score nine in a row early in the second half, but then it was Prairie's turn to turn on the offense. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they were on only temporarily.

With that, one of the biggest locks in Washington high school sports is no longer a lock. The Prairie Falcons will not be playing basketball the final week of the season.

BELLEVUE 58, PRAIRIE 51

BELLEVUE — Erin McGowan 2, Tatiana Streun 16, Kate Holmes 3, Mandy Steward 20, Shelby Cansler 14, Elisa Park 0, Dajah Rogers 3. Totals 17-47 (3-15) 21-34 58.

PRAIRIE — Lindsey Asplund 2, Cori Woodward 16, Aislinn Konig 9, Nicole Goecke 2, Megan Lindsley 17, Jamie Phares 0, Emily Peters 4, Cherita Daugherty 1. Totals 18-61 (6-26) 9-11 51.

Bellevue 13 10 12 23—58

Prairie 17 10 15 9—51