Sports

Raider girls ready for state tournament run

By CASEY OLSON

Sports Editor

The Jefferson girls basketball team tips off its bid in the Class 4A state championships at 2 p.m. today against perennial state powerhouse Garfield inside the Tacoma Dome.

But Raiders coach Mike Grady isn’t real worried about the 19-5 and No. 9-ranked Bulldogs.

“We can play with anyone,” said Grady.

Grady’s confidence stems from Jefferson’s performance Saturday at the West Central District tournament – a 49-46 loss to the sixth-ranked Enumclaw Hornets.

“This loss is going to help us down the road,” he said. “Our league and district are so tough. I think we are peaking at the right time.”

The loss to Enumclaw earned the Raiders the No. 4 seed from the West Central into the state tournament and the matchup with Garfield, which actually was a huge break for Jefferson.

The state tournament draw turned into quite the ordeal Sunday morning. The 16-team-tournament pairings had to be drawn out of a hat two different times. The first go-round was ruled invalid because the draw had two of the seven qualifying teams from Jefferson’s district playing each other in the first round –– something that is not allowed.

As the pairings were announced, Jefferson was one of four teams remaining along with No. 1-ranked and defending 4A champion Central Valley of Spokane, No. 2-ranked Kentlake, who beat the Raiders 53-40 last week, and Garfield. Jefferson got the best they could hope for –– a match up with the Bulldogs, who finished second to undefeated Redmond in the Sea-King District.

“We are not going to be intimidated,” said Grady.

The winner of the Jefferson-Garfield matchup will play the winner of the Lake Stevens-Central Valley game at 5 p.m. tomorrow. The two losers will play at 10:30 a.m. in the double-elimination tournament.

Saturday’s Enumclaw loss was a game that Jefferson controlled for most of the 36 minutes, which was quite a change from the two teams’ matchup Feb. 22 at the South Puget Sound League Tournament. The Hornets dominated Jefferson, sinking 11 3-pointers en route to a 78-52 victory.

“Anytime somebody beats you by 26 points, you want to make a game of it the second time around,” Grady said. “And we did. I’m proud of our girls.”

The turning point came with 3:17 remaining in the fourth quarter. Trailing 42-36, Enumclaw’s Brittney Osborn was fouled after making a layup. Osborn missed the free throw, but the Hornets’ Jessie Christensen grabbed the rebound and found Osborn, who buried a 3-pointer to cut the Raiders’ lead to one, 42-41. Enumclaw took the lead for good with 1:58 remaining on another Osborn three.

But the Raiders went down fighting. With 8.9 seconds left, Enumclaw hit a pair of free throws to go up 49-44. That is when Jefferson senior Chelsea Hunt ran the length of the floor for a layup to cut the lead to three with 1.4 seconds left. On the ensuing play, the ball bounced off Christensen’s leg out of bounds, giving Jefferson possession under its basket with just .9 seconds remaining. An attempted game-tying 3-pointer from senior Kim Brown bounced of the rim, ending the game.

“We are holding our heads up high,” said forward Kezia Long. “They beat us pretty bad last time.”

Long was one of the main reasons the Hornets’ potent offense was held in check. The senior tallied eight points, pulled down 11 rebounds and blocked five shots.

“They scored 78 points against us last game,” Grady said. “We really made some nice adjustments this time around. But we got a little tired at the end of the game. We don’t go very deep on our bench. I am proud of the girls’ effort.”

Hunt played another solid all-around game. The senior led Jefferson in scoring with 15 points. She also added five rebounds, five steals and four assists. Hunt’s performance earned her a spot on the All-Tournament team.

Senior Kim Brown added 14 points for the Raiders.

“When we are clicking, we can pretty much beat anybody,” said Long.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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