The Prairie Falcons have qualified for the state regionals in girls basketball.
Oh, but they want so much more.
Led by their lone senior starter Nicole Goecke, the Falcons ruled the second half Wednesday to beat Lakes of Lakewood 56-39 in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A bi-district tournament. The win sends the Falcons to the bi-district semifinals and guarantees them a spot among the final 16 teams in the state.
A loss Wednesday would have put the Falcons into two must-win games just to advance to regionals.
That wasn't going to happen on Goecke's watch.
"It's a big wake-up call when you realize it's your last year," Goecke said. "I'm not going to be playing basketball again. This is my last go. Gotta make it worth it."
Signed with Oregon State for cross country and track and field, Goecke looked a lot more like a basketball standout on this night, finishing with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and six steals.
"I wanted this game really bad," she said.
Prairie will face Lincoln of Tacoma at 7:45 p.m. Friday at Clover Park High School in Tacoma.
The Falcons got past Lakes with a 34-19 advantage in the second half, after both teams struggled on offense in the first half.
"The coaches didn't say a lot of negative things," Goecke said of the halftime talk. "They know when to yell and know when not to yell. They just picked us up. 'Come out hard and get our lead up, and play how we play.'"
Goecke nailed a 3-pointer to open the second half and scored nine of her points in the third quarter, as the Falcons extended a two-point lead to a 10-point advantage. Goecke then converted a traditional three-point play to open the fourth, and Lakes never got closer than seven points the rest of the night.
Prairie coach Brett Johnson called Goecke's performance the epitome of leadership. He also praised the defensive effort from all of the Falcons.
"From beginning to end, we wanted to make sure we played harder than the girls up north," Johnson said. "For some reason, we seem to get scared against teams from the north. They proved they could do it. They came out attacking."
Indeed, the Falcons, with their defense and rebounding, took 10 of the first 11 shots of the game and led the Lancers 11-2.
But Lakes withstood that rush and responded with a 13-1 run of their own to take a three-point lead after the first quarter.
"I knew we would come back. We are dynamic like that," Goecke said. "We just had to put our heads to it and work on the little things."
It took more than five minutes for either team to score a field goal in the second quarter. Then the Falcons made three in 43 seconds. Lindsay Asplund's basket brought Prairie within two at 17-15, then Goecke got a steal and lay-up for the tie.
On Prairie's next possession, Goecke drained a 3-pointer. Just like that, the Falcons went from four-down to three-up.
Lakes would tie it before Asplund's two free throws in the final minute of the half gave the Falcons a two-point halftime lead. The Falcons would not trail in the second half.
Now, the Falcons will be preparing for the final two games of this tournament while also looking forward to the regional matchup. A year ago, the Falcons lost in regionals, missing out on a trip to the Tacoma Dome.
"We're going to have play consistent," Goecke said.
For Prairie, that begins with defense, intensity, and leadership.
PRAIRIE 56, LAKES 39
LAKES -- Auzhane' Johnson 2, Kaytlan Soriano 10, Shamirah Lowe 4, Desiree Williams 3, Olivia Crawford 18, Alexis Wilson 2, Kayla Jackson 0, Diyonus Walls 0. Totals 15-53 (4-13) 5-14 39.
PRAIRIE -- Nicole Goecke 21, Lindsay Asplund 7, Emily Peters 4, Jamie Phares 3, Cherita Daugherty 14, Natalie Whitesel 2, Grace Prom 0, Jozie Tangeman 3, Malia Teriipaia 2. Totals 16-55 (3-24) 21-33 56.
Lakes 15 5 10 9--39
Prairie 12 10 18 16--56