BELLEVUE — A senior leader spoke of what it meant to play for the Prairie girls basketball team.
A sophomore talked up the future of the Falcons.
For now, though, the words cannot overcome the shock: Prairie’s season is over.
Seattle Prep got 21 points from Chinwe Ezeonu and a clutch defensive stop to beat Prairie 55-53 Friday night in a Class 3A state regional elimination game at Bellevue College. The Panthers (20-6) will go to the Tacoma Dome for the final 12 of the state tournament.
Bea Franklin stole the ball from the Falcons with three seconds to play, securing the victory before Prairie (20-5) could attempt a tying shot.
“We’re always there for each other, we trust each other,” Prairie senior Jozie Tangeman said, fighting off tears while reflecting on her career. “I couldn’t have asked for a better four years. Every year.”
This year, though, the Falcons came a win short of making it to the Tacoma Dome, settling instead for reaching the state round of 16 for the 20th consecutive season.
Seattle Prep held Prairie to six points in the third quarter to take a four-point lead. The Panthers never lost that lead in the fourth quarter, despite Prairie’s fight.
Brooke Walling’s sixth 3-pointer of the game made it a three-point game. Later, Cassidy Gardner scored three in a row to make it a two-point game. And with 3 minutes left, Tangeman converted a three-point play to make it 50-49.
Seattle Prep kept countering, though.
Ezeonu grabbed an offensive rebound, leading to a three-point play from Franklin with 52 seconds left to make it 55-51.
Tangeman would make two free throws with 39 seconds left, but the Falcons would miss on their next two attempts to tie. First, there was a missed contested lay-up, and then there was that Franklin steal.
“I was just doing anything to keep them from scoring,” Franklin said, not recalling all the details of the play.
Walling, who led all scorers with 23 points, took responsibility for not getting a final shot for the Falcons.
“I wasn’t strong enough with the ball, and I should have been,” she said.
Still, all of the Falcons would tell her that they would not have even been in the game without Walling.
“She played amazing,” Prairie coach Hala Corral said. “How many 6-3 kids can go out and make six 3’s in a game and dominate the inside, too?”
Walling finished 8 of 10 from the floor, including 6 of 8 from 3-point range, and also had seven rebounds.
She had 17 of her 23 in the first half, helping Prairie take a one-point lead.
“It felt good. We just couldn’t get the ball to drop and when I did, it felt good not only for me, but my teammates, too,” Walling said. “I was doing it for the seniors.”
Those seniors would be Tangeman, who had 11 points in her final game, Grace Prom and Sarina Martinez. The rest of the roster consists of sophomores and freshmen.
“We’re going to come back and fight next year and the year after,” said Walling, a sophomore. “We’re not going to give up. There’s a reason we’ve had 20 straight league championships and 20 straight state appearances. It’s because we don’t give up.”
This game lived up to that philosophy, too.
“I thought we played our hardest,” Tangeman said. “There’s not much else we can do. We played with intensity the whole game. We didn’t put our heads down once. We just kept fighting.”
“I told them I was proud of them,” Corral said. “They played great. We didn’t lose because of a lack of effort. Sometimes the shots go in. Sometimes they don’t.”
And sometimes, the opponent has a good game. Ezeonu was 10 of 16 from the floor. The Falcons had several answers down the stretch, not just enough to overcome the deficit.
SEATTLE PREP 55, PRAIRIE 53
PRAIRIE — Allie Corral 5, Jozie Tangeman 11, Grace Prom 5, Cassidy Gardner 9, Brooke Walling 23, Mallory Williams 0, Kazz Parks 0, Haley Reed 0. Totals 18 (10) 7-11 53.
SEATTLE PREP — Hillary Lapke 6, Helan Sauvage 2, Marie Hauck 3, Bea Franklin 9, Chinwe Ezeonu 21, Emily Petro 5, Claire Russell 6, Lily Teders 3, Angelina Usibelli 0. Totals 23 (4) 5-11 55.
Prairie 11 19 6 17–53
Seattle Prep 11 18 11 15–55