Last year at this time, half of the Todd Beamer girls basketball roster was in junior high.
Fast forward 12 months and the Titans, youth movement and all, are one win away from winning their first 4A West Central District championship.
Freshman Nia Alexander scored 23 points, fellow ninth-grader Quinessa Caylao-Do added 16, and Beamer knocked off 4A Narrows League champion Yelm, 63-49, in the district semifinals Saturday at Auburn High School.
The Titans (20-4) advance to Monday’s district championship game at the ShoWare Center in Kent, where they will face top-ranked Mount Rainier (23-1) in an all-South Puget Sound League final.
“I can’t explain it,” said Titans coach Corey Alexander about his team’s postseason run despite having six freshmen on the roster. “They play much older than they are.”
While Beamer heads to the title game, Yelm, which lost for the first time in 16 games, returns to Auburn on Monday to play Union (15-6) for the No. 3 seed.
“We still have a lot of basketball left,” Yelm coach Russ Riches said. “It’s disappointing to lose, but I expect the girls will come ready to play on Monday.”
Beamer lost a 57-56 decision to Mount Rainier for the SPSL title earlier this month before advancing to districts for the first time in school history. The Titans haven’t lost since.
Beamer led 35-25 at halftime and 50-34 after three quarters, taking advantage of Yelm’s poor shooting.
“I could just tell early on we didn’t have our legs,” Riches said. “Last night’s (quarterfinal) victory over Federal Way took a lot out of us, plus four of our five starters are battling colds. We just didn’t have any energy.”
Anushka Maldonado paced the Tornados (19-4) with 17 points, while teammates Karli Shaw and McKaiela Tyler each added 12.
Tyler opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer and a layup off a steal to cut Yelm’s deficit to 50-39.
A 3-pointer from Beamer freshman Ta’Lea Culp pushed the lead back to double digits with 5 minutes to play.
The Tornados were unable to get any closer.
Mount Rainier 53, Union 38: Junior Brittany McPhee scored 17 of her game-high 31 points in the second half to power the Rams, the defending district champions, to a semifinal victory over the Titans.
McPhee went 9-for-9 from the free-throw line in the first half, helping Mount Rainier (23-1) to a 25-15 lead at halftime and scored 10 points during a key 15-2 second-half run.
Kentridge 41, Federal Way 30: The Chargers held the Eagles to seven first-half points, scoring 18 of their own, in an loser-out game at Rogers High.
Sophomore guard Alicia Dugan led Kentridge with a game-high 19 points, and junior guard Courtnae Williams added eight points.
SPSL scoring leader Raven Benton came into the tournament averaging 26.6 points a game for Federal Way. Against Kentridge, she was held to 12 points – tying Kayla Smith for team-high honors.
Kentwood 50, Rogers 48: The Conquerors built a 40-32 lead after three quarters and then held off the Rams in a loser-out game at Rogers.
Sarah Toeaina, a junior guard, had 17 points to lead Kentwood, which got 13 points from Jenny Johnson and 11 from Kate Kramer.
Rogers senior post Kalani Ulufale shared game-high honors with 17 points; Maloree Miller added 10 points for the Rams.