OLYMPIA — Nothing is automatic in sports. It just seems that way with the Prairie girls basketball team.
The Falcons (19-3) are going back to state, qualifying Saturday for at least the round of 16 for the 20th consecutive season.
Brooke Walling scored 21 points and Jozie Tangeman added 17 as Prairie rolled past Timberline of Lacey 72-25 in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A bi-district tournament at Olympia High. The Falcons still have two games left in this event, but their two victories in the championship bracket so far have assured them a berth to state.
Grace Prom, one of three seniors on the team, said this is a young squad, and it is a rebuilding year. Still, at Prairie, even a rebuild has lofty expectations.
“We knew early on we had a lot of potential,” Prom said. “It’s just amazing we’re here.”
“This is super exciting,” added Tangeman, also a senior. “This is one of our goals for the season. But I think we want more. We want to do what other (recent) teams haven’t done.”
The Falcons have not earned a trophy at state since 2012. That’s a long time for this program.
Sarina Martinez, a senior, said she has been taking to heart what her coach told the team early in the season.
“At Prairie, getting to the dome is what we do. Getting a title is what we want,” Martinez said. “We’re known for getting to the dome. We want a championship.”
Technically, the Falcons have not secured a spot to the Tacoma Dome. That’s for the final 12 teams. They have reached the state round of 16 but likely will have to win an elimination game to make the final stage.
The Falcons feel that is their destiny, especially if they keep playing like they did Saturday.
Prairie shot 70 percent from the floor in a 24-point first quarter and never looked back against Timberline.
Tangeman had 12 of her points in the first half. She finished 6 of 9 from the floor.
Walling had 12 of her points in the second half. She finished 8 of 10 from the floor.
They were the lone scorers in double digits because the Falcons just kept sharing the ball with everybody. In all, 10 of the 11 players scored.
Martinez, a reserve, scored seven in one of her highlights of the season.
“Some people might see just the players (regularly) on the court, but this really is everyone together,” Martinez said. “We couldn’t do it without everybody on the team.”
Days such as Saturday make all the work worth it for the reserves.
“It’s easy when you accept your role, and then you can show you work just as hard,” Martinez said. “It was great to hear my teammates cheering me on.”
There was a lot of that in this one. Prairie led by 23 at the half, 31 after three quarters, and then made it a running clock with a 40-point lead in the fourth.
“Everyone on the team contributed today,” first-year Prairie coach Hala Corral said. “They came out and they just played amazing. From the opening tip-off until the last tick on the clock. It was exciting to see as a coach.”
This one was easy, but the entire process is not so simple.
“There is a lot of pressure coaching at Prairie,” Corral said. “You’re judged whether you get to state or you don’t get to state.”
One season into her career at Prairie, she is 1-for-1. And the program is on a run of 20 in a row.
PRAIRIE 72, TIMBERLINE 25
TIMBERLINE — Keshara Romain 6, Rayanna Dyas 4, Cadence Monti 8, Kiara Brooks 2, Arianna Bush 2, Mia Harriott 1, Taylor Grantham 2. Totals 9 (0) 7-14 25.
PRAIRIE — Sarina Martinez 7, Allie Corral 2, Kazz Parks 2, Jozie Tangeman 17, Mallory Williams 3, Grace Prom 8, Sydney Weber 0, Malaika Quigley 3, Haley Reed 2, Cassidy Gardner 7, Brooke Walling 21. Totals 27 (6) 12-14 72.
Timberline 8 8 5 4–25
Prairie 24 15 13 20–72