Make no mistake about it, the Wilson High girls basketball team’s 48-37 Class 3A state quarterfinal win over Mercer Island on Thursday morning at the Tacoma Dome was a watershed moment for the program.
Thursday’s win marked the first time the program has won a game at state while playing in the Dome.
But for a team with aspirations of winning the 3A state title, there is plenty of work to be done if the fourth-ranked Rams hope to get by Seattle Prep in today’s semifinal game at 3:45 p.m.
Against Mercer Island, the fourth-ranked Rams shot 31 percent (15 of 47) from the field and 48 percent (15 of 31) from the free-throw line. Senior guard Bethany Montgomery scored 11 points but struggled shooting the ball (3 of 11), and center Tia Briggs (11 points) finished with just seven field goal attempts. Wilson (22-2) also got flustered early after a few calls didn’t go the Rams’ way.
“The magnitude of the game was obviously something,” Wilson coach Michelle Birge said. “They had nerves.”
With the first-game jitters now behind them, Birge said the team will continue to keep the focus on things they can control against Seattle Prep (22-5). Getting Briggs involved early will also be key against the Panthers, who feature three players taller than 6-feet.
“In big games, sometimes we’ve allowed ourselves not to see (Briggs),” Birge said. “If she goes three possessions without touching the ball (in the low post) for us, that’s a big problem for us.”
After missing a handful of shots to start the game against the Islanders, Montgomery admitted she got down on herself and let it affect her play.
“My teammates and coaches talked to me and helped me get out of my head,” said the senior, who did manage to go 5-for-6 from the line and dish out four assists. “I need to be more of a leader and not get an attitude just because my game is not on. I’m happy we won, but I was expecting better for myself, my team.”
Wilson will also need other players to contribute — as they did on Thursday— if it hopes to continue the run to the title game. Justina Laney (eight points) hit a couple of big 3-pointers, and sophomore Violet Morrow finished with nine points and nine rebounds. Carsen Stanley also had four points and five rebounds off the bench.
“We rely on 12 girls; the bench players, the role players and the starting five, to do our job,” Birge said.
Birge understands what the Rams are up against in Seattle Prep, a team that has been to the state tournament three out of the past four years.
“They are a great half-court offensive and defensive team,” she said. “They’re going to slow us down and make us execute our offense. They’ve got three girls over 6-foot. I respect them tremendously because they’ve held Cleveland to one-point losses several times.”
Briggs understands the Rams won’t be able to play like they did Thursday and stay alive in the tournament.
“I think our offense was a little off (against Mercer Island),” she said. “I definitely think our defense played very well. But I think we’ll have to have better offense (today), especially if we want to get a lead so we can put the game away.”