As the player from Edmonds-Woodway cut down the lane on a beeline to the basket, Mount Rainier High senior Brittany McPhee was a half-step behind — just waiting for her moment to pounce.
As the shot was released, McPhee quickly swatted the basketball away, corralling it immediately after the redirection. Moments later, the senior was sprinting down the court with the ball, pulling up and knocking down a 3-pointer at the other end.
The play — just one of McPhee’s many highlights in the Rams’ 76-46 Class 4A state regional win over the Spartans last week — offered a glimpse of how the 6-foot forward’s already dominant skills have matured over the years to make her into the player she is now.
Per-game averages of 27 points, 14 rebounds, 2.8 blocked shots and 3.3 steals this season — but mainly her ability to change a game single-handedly — are the main reasons the Stanford-bound McPhee is The News Tribune’s All-Area girls Player of the Year for the third consecutive season.
“She’s just so smart,” Mount Rainier coach Bob Bolam said. “She knows when to double (team), when to pick people off; just a very instinctive player out on the floor.”
While McPhee gained most of the acclaim early in her career for her ability to score, her defense and rebounding have steadily improved over the years. And she has never faltered in her uncanny ability to finish in heavy traffic at the rim — either by an offensive rebound, putback or acrobatic layup.
“As an opposing coach, sometimes you get caught up in watching her,” said White River coach Chris Gibson, whose team has played the Rams and McPhee a couple times over the past two seasons.
McPhee has scored more than 30 points in a game eight times this year — including a 42-point outburst against Kentridge in January. Her 2,714 career points and 1,360 rebounds are school records, and she’ll likely capture her third Gatorade State Girls Basketball Player of the Year award when it is announced next week.
Already blessed with the physical abilities, McPhee worked this season on polishing parts of her game that needed minor work. Outside shooting, ball-handling and passing are things Stanford coaches have asked her to focus on this year.
“This year I’ve been able to anticipate (plays on defense) a little better,” McPhee said.
That’s a scary thought, considering she was already a solid rebounder and overall defender.
“She has incredible length,” Gibson said. “She controls the whole game — not just the offensive side.”
And speaking of offense, teams have tried everything in the book to slow her down. Edmonds-Woodway even took to getting physical with her — at one time unfurling her long, trademark braid in her hair. McPhee has found a way to fight through it all.
“Once they start (being physical), you have to realize it,” she said. “Then I start hitting outside shots instead of going inside.”
She has racked up all the awards, but a 4A state title has eluded her. McPhee hopes to change that this week at the Tacoma Dome.
“It’s the biggest thing to do right now,” McPhee said. “It would be so great to win state. Especially with my twin sister (Jordan), it would be the best way to go out. We really want it.”
Center, 6-3, senior
The University of Hawaii signee has the nasty attitude of an enforcer in the post but the smooth skills of a wing around the basket. The SPSL South MVP averaged 13.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots per game, and leaves as school’s career scoring leader (1,162 points).
What coach Corey Alexander says: “Megan is a rare find – a 6-foot-3 post that can handle the ball and shoot the midrange shot. She is a student of the game – the more you give her, the more she is willing to learn.”
Guard, 5-6, senior
A tough-as-nails point guard with a knack for knocking down big jump shots, the 4A Narrows League Player of the Year averaged 13.6 points, 2.0 assists and 1.7 steals a game this season for the league-champion Lions.
What coach Kevin Meines says: “Jasmyne is the glue that held us together this year. We have had some very talented and some very strong leaders in my 11 years but rarely did you find them in one player. She did both for us this season.”
Center, 6-3, senior
Try to challenge this Washington State University signee, and one thing usually happens – a thunderous rejection. The Evergreen 2A Player of the Year, and McDonald’s All-America nominee, blocks shots with ease, and finished with averages of 12.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 3.5 assists a game.
What coach Henri Weeks says: “Nike has grown tremendously. She anchors our team on the court, and provides great leadership and a level of play that gives our team extraordinary defensive and offensive advantages.”
Guard, 5-10, senior
Once a team ball girl, Toeaina has turned out to be one of the best in the program’s history. The three-time all-SPSL North first-team guard and Hawaii signee is that rare blend of size, strength and ball-handling. She averaged 19.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.4 steals a game this season.
What coach Lisa Ashley says: “Sarah is a great and respected leader, on and off the court. She is a positive inspiration for her teammates, peers and others by leading by example. She is always striving to better herself.”
Forward, 6-1, junior
There is competitive, and then there is Lange. The co-2A SPSL Player of the Year (18.8 ppg, 12.0 rpg) set single-season league records for points (391), rebounds (241) and blocked shots (116). Also the starting goalkeeper for the Spartans’ state-winning girls soccer team.
What coach Shane Patrick says: “She is a warrior. She is very focused and determined. She is able to dominate the game at both ends of the floor. She has a very high basketball IQ. Every team we played had to game plan for her specifically.”
All-AREA SECOND TEAM
TAMIA BRAGGS, Lincoln, C, 6-2, sophomore
RILEY CLARKE, Emerald Ridge, G, 5-11, junior
BRAYLIE JEFFERS, Puyallup, G, 5-6, senior
AMANDA LANCE, White River, G , 5-7, junior
JOSIE MATZ, Wilson, G, 5-10, freshman
Player of the year: Brittany McPhee, Mount Rainier
Coach of the year: Jackie Thomas, Curtis