No ifs, no ands, no buts about it: Mount Rainier High’s Brittany McPhee is the best girls’ basketball player in the state.
She proved that with a 34-point, 14-rebound performance in the 4A semifinals against No. 1 Mead. This after posting 28 points, 15 rebounds against Inglemoor on Thursday.
But even through McPhee’s scintillating performance, it was Mead who proved it might be the best team in state.
Mead survived a furious Mount Rainier comeback in the final quarter to win 51-50 in the battle between top-ranked teams in the state.
The Panthers advance to the state championship for the second time since 2010 and will face Arlington, which defeated WesCo-rival Lake Stevens 66-64 in overtime, at 7 p.m. today.
“Their starting five is all solid,” said Mount Rainier coach Bob Bolam following his team’s semifinal loss against Mead. “You can’t tell your team to play off of this girl and go cover this girl.”
McPhee scored 15 of Mount Rainier’s 22 points in the first half, but Mead began to pull away in the third quarter and lead 45-33 going into the fourth.
McPhee scored 12 straight points, doing most of her damage against Mead’s Mackenzie McPhee, her cousin, before Jordan McPhee, her twin sister, hit two free throws to pull the Rams to within 47-46 with 3:21 to go.
But Mead never surrendered its lead and held on late to secure a trip to the finals.
Mount Rainier heads to the third-place game where it will face Lake Stevens, and their Boise State-bound twins Brooke and Brittney Pahukoa, at 1 p.m. today, after the Vikings suffered an overtime loss after holding a sizeable lead of their own in their third game of the season against Arlington.
Arlington and Lake Stevens know each other so well as 4A WesCo rivals, it’s hard to believe either team would do anything that would catch the other by surprise.
But the Eagles did. They unleashed their freshman 5.9-per-game-scorer Jayla Russ.
Russ scored a career-high 23 points, which proved to be the difference in sending Arlington to its first state championship game since 1982 – when it won as a 3A team.
The Eagles trailed by 12 points less than two minutes into the second half, then proceeded to use a 16-5 run to pull back into the game. They then held Lake Stevens without a field goal for all but 3.3 seconds of the fourth quarter, and took a 56-53 lead on a cold-blooded jab step 3-pointer from Lindsey Brown.
“We are such big rivals of Lake Stevens,” Brown said. “We go back and forth all the time. We just knew we wanted this and it was time for the seniors to step up and make it happen.”
Brooke Pahukoa led the Vikings with 28 points and 14 rebounds. But her twin sister, Brittney drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the regulation buzzer to send the game into overtime.
They are the daughters of former University of Washington and St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Jeff Pahukoa.
Arlington took another 3-point lead, this time at 66-63 with 1.7 seconds left in overtime. Lake Stevens inbounded the ball to Brooke Pahukoa, who was immediately fouled.
She made her first free throw, and intentionally missed the second. But Arlington’s Brown secured the rebound and secured the Eagles a trip to the state championship in their first state appearance since 2001.