To put it bluntly, the Rogers High girls basketball got punched in the mouth on Saturday afternoon at Puyallup High.
The Rams were hit hard early in a Class 4A regional round game against Todd Beamer, eventually falling, 73-61 in a season-ending loss.
“I think for all of us it was ‘What are you going to do when you get punched in the mouth?’ And we got uppercut pretty good,” said Rogers team captain Jessi Westering. “I’m so proud of our team because we had games where we were punched in the mouth and we turned and walked away. But we stepped up and we stuck it to them.”
Rogers opened the game cold. The Rams couldn’t find buy a bucket in the first while Beamer just rained down one 3-pointer after another to surge out to a 24-8 lead after the first quarter.
But things changed in the second quarter.
Unlike many of the Rams’ games prior, Westering said, Rogers (18-8) didn’t fade away when the pressure was at its peak. The Rams fought back, led by a trio of seniors.
“It was a little rough, but we knew they couldn’t stay hot all game. We knew that if we kept pushing and kept working, we could start scoring ourselves,” Tristan Coltom said.
It started with a simple substitution of senior Amber Barnett, a player who had not even reached double-digit games played in this season, only to become the spark the Rams needed. From pulling down rebounds, to slapping balls out of Titan players’ hands on defense, to setting up shots on offense, Barnett rejuvenated Rogers it began to climb back into the game.
“That’s kind of their MO — they just battle and battle. We just ran out of time,” Rogers coach Amy Looker said. “I thought our girls responded really well. They hit big shots throughout the stretch, and they never quit.”
By the end of the half, Rogers cut Beamer’s lead in half, at 32-23, providing a manageable deficit to try and overcome in the second half.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t give up anything team for this team,” Coltom said. “I love the heart that our team has, and I love how hard they play.”
Westering came alive in the second half, finishing with a team-high 27 points, and Coltom added another 13 of her own, and both helped bring the Rams within seven points twice in the final 2 minutes, 30 seconds of play.
But the combination of Japhera McEachin (31 points) and Makenzie Bond (24 points) proved too much for the Rams to overcome in the end.
“It was our last game. There was no way they were going to take this from us,” Westering said. “If they wanted it, they were going to have to beat us until we couldn’t breathe anymore. By the end, I had nothing left in me.”
And that’s all any team can do when it’s punched in the mouth right from the start — get back up and fight to the end.