The final steps Skyview and Central Valley took to the 4A girls basketball championship game could hardly have been more different.
The Storm led the whole way in its semifinal win over Gonzaga Prep on Friday, while Central Valley led for less than five seconds in its win over Mount Rainier.
However, the victorious coaches agreed that defense will be a key in determining who goes home with the state trophy today when the schools meet at 5 p.m. in the Tacoma Dome.
“Play defense and hit some shots,” Central Valley coach Freddie Rehkow said of the key to the championship. “If you would ask me if we could (get to the final by shooting 23.3 percent) I would have said there’s no way. But with the defense to hold (Mount Rainier to 12 points in the second half) – if you ask any coach: You play good defense and you’ve got a chance.”
Central Valley (25-2) spent most of the semifinal’s 32 minutes in pursuit of Mount Rainier (26-2). The Bears still trailed by one point on their final possession.
They finally broke through 4.9 seconds from the end when senior guard Sydney Emory found space on the left corner and nailed a 3-pointer that gave Central Valley its only lead in the 42-40 victory.
“If it was open, great,” Rehkow said of his plans for that final possession. “If not, we were going to try to drive because it was a 1-and-1 at that point. But she’s confident. I’ll take that shot anytime.”
Mount Rainier tried to answer by quickly working the ball into the front court and calling timeout with about two seconds left. However, the Rams couldn’t reclaim the advantage they had held for so long.
“We had the lead in this game for all but 4.9 seconds,” coach Bob Bolam said. “Unfortunately, it was the last 4.9 seconds. It’s frustrating. The girls wanted it. They played a real hard game. Central Valley played real good D on us in the second half. We only scored 12 points in the second half. That’s not going to win you many games.”
Defense also was cited among the keys to Skyview’s wire-to-wire win over Gonzaga Prep (19-6). The Storm shot 50 percent from the field, the Bullpups 40.7 percent.
Skyview (24-3) opened the game with a 7-0 run and never trailed on its way to a 63-50 victory.
“I think (the fast start) gave our kids a big confidence boost,” Skyview coach Jennifer Buscher said. “Our kids are believers. I said it (Friday): They believe in each other, they believe in themselves, they believe in the coaching staff. At any give time, it can be any kid on our team, and that’s exciting.”
Like Rehkow, Buscher said defense will be the key if Skyview’s excitement is to continue through its final game against the Bears.
“I think we match up well,” she said. “We’re both big teams. I think our height advantage has been special for this team this year. I just felt all season long we’ve just had the right pieces in place. Defense and rebounding wins games. I think that’s where we really excel with this team, with our defense.”