After the final buzzer sounded in Gig Harbor’s Class 3A West Central District III/Southwest bi-district 62-40 win over Wilson at Rogers High on Friday night and the Tides were officially headed back to the state tournament, the celebration was, more than anything, subdued.
It felt like Gig Harbor had maybe just won a regular season game.
The Tides, after all, expected to be here. Getting back to the state tournament was a goal, but not the prize the players and coaches have had their eyes on this season.
“We definitely want to go further than we did last year,” said Gig Harbor forward Maddie Willett, who scored a game-high 25 points in the win. “It just means we have to keep getting better every day.”
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Gig Harbor coach Megan Murray didn’t want to downplay the accomplishment, but it was clear she was already focused on the next challenge ahead.
“We’re excited, obviously,” Murray said. “We punched our ticket and we’re ready to go. But by no means does that mean we can relax. I just got done telling the girls, ‘The more you win, the tougher the teams get.’ We’ve got to believe we belong right there with all of those teams. We’ve got to believe we belong right there with all those teams.”
With the exception of some sloppy play in the fourth quarter, Gig Harbor dominated from start to finish. After the first quarter, the Tides held a 16-3 lead. At half, Gig Harbor (18-4 overall) led Wilson (14-8) 35-12. The fast start set the tone for the entire game. After storming out to an early lead, Gig Harbor never looked back.
“It’s definitely important to start hard and get the team going and show everyone that we’re here for a reason and we should be here,” Willett said.
Willett had one of her best games of the season. She scored the team’s first six points and never slowed down. In her senior season, she appears to have a different level of focus in her final go-around.
“(Willett is) just really focused, really dialed in,” Murray said. “Obviously, she knows this is the last run for her. If that has anything to do with it, I don’t know. Just maturity, experience and her game has always been kind of relaxed. She has just been really poised out there.
“She just has really stepped up and become an on court leader. Besides the scoring — because obviously she’s capable of doing that in a variety of ways — she’s just rebounding really well. She has stepped up in different areas and I’m really proud of her.”
Junior Brynna Maxwell was her usual self, scoring 23 for the Tides, often trading buckets with her teammate Willett.
“We just try to feed each other and get everyone involved in the game, not just us,” Willett said.
Gig Harbor still has a couple of games remaining in the tournament, for watching purposes. The Tides won the district title last season and the players are eager to repeat.
“We believe we’re capable of doing it again this year,” Murray said. “It would help a lot with momentum. It’s good we’re going to get these two games and face some really good competition.”
Gig Harbor will face Bethel next on Wednesday, Feb. 14 at Foss High School. Tipoff is set for 7:45 p.m. The winner of that game will face the winner of Lincoln/Prairie in the district championship, which will be held on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2 p.m. at Puyallup High School.