Skyview High School sophomore guard Aubrey Ward-El hadn’t hit a shot all game.
But when the ball ended up in her hands on the game’s final possession with the score tied, she didn’t hesitate to let it fly.
Ward-El drilled a 3-pointer before the final buzzer, lifting the Storm to a 46-43 victory over Central Valley in the Class 4A girls state championship game at the Tacoma Dome on Saturday.
“I was just hoping it would go in,” said Ward-El, who was 0-for-10 from the field before her final shot drew nothing but net. “I just let it go … I wasn’t even thinking, really.”
The shot gave Skyview (27-3) its first girls 4A state title.
But the Storm from Vancouver had to rally during a frenetic final five minutes to overtake the Bears.
Central Valley’s Madison Hovren converted a three-point play to put the Bears up with three minutes to play, 43-38.
“It was very chaotic, but we knew we had to stay calm in order to win,” Ward-El said. “We had to stay positive, and that’s what we did.”
The Storm rallied to tie the game at 43, and Skyview coach Jennifer Buscher called a timeout with 14 seconds remaining to set up the final play.
Skyview worked the ball down low before it came back out to Ward-El.
With two defenders charging at her, she kept her concentration and knocked down the shot.
“I kind of remember them coming at me, but I tried to just focus on the hoop,” she said.
“(She’s the) first kid in the gym, (and the) last kid to leave,” Buscher said of Ward-El. “We are so happy for that kid … one of the hardest working kids on this team.”
Playing in its sixth championship game, No. 4 Central Valley (25-3) looked good early on.
The Bears held Skyview to five points in the first quarter to jump to a 15-5 lead.
Central Valley led by three at halftime and clung to a 31-29 lead after three quarters. But the Bears were outscored in the fourth quarter, 17-12.
“There wasn’t any panic,” Buscher said. “These kids believe in each other. This is a special, special group. Coming into this tournament, we were the underdogs from the beginning, and it’s kind of been a Cinderella story for us.”
Sophomore post Jocelyn Adams, an all-tournament selection, led the Storm with 17 points on 8-for-9 shooting. Tournament MVP Brooke Bowen added 10 points for Skyview.
Brooke Gallaway led Central Valley with 12 points, four rebounds and two assists.