Brooke Walling’s 3-pointer to start the second half seemed innocent enough.
It was quickly followed by long-range buckets from Grace Prom and Mallory Williams. All of a sudden, Prairie had managed something few others had accomplished this season — cracking Lincoln’s stingy defense.
Walling scored a team-high 19 points and ignited a momentum-swinging third quarter run and the Falcons defeated the Abes, 62-53, in the semifinals of the 3A West Central/Southwest district girls’ basketball tournament at Olympia High School on Thursday.
“(Prairie) shot it well tonight. That’s what they do, and we weren’t very good with our help defense,” Lincoln coach Jamila Jones said. “Any time we have a chink in our armor defensively, we’re going to struggle. We gave up way too many easy baskets and uncontested 3s.”
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The Abes’ defense has been dominant this season, holding all but two opponents under 50 points.
The Falcons, champions of the 3A Greater Saint Helens League, made things look easy in the opening five minutes of the second half, turning a 34-29 halftime deficit into a 12-point lead with 17 unanswered points.
Lincoln (18-5) had held its last five opponents under 30 points, with only Wilson and Sunnyside scoring exactly 50.
Prairie (20-3) drained its first four 3s of the second half, and when the Falcons finally did miss from long-range, Walling was there to gobble up the offensive rebound before being put on the foul line.
Her free throw with 3 minutes, 42 seconds remaining in the third quarter gave the Falcons its largest lead of the game at 46-34.
The Abes charged back, closing the third on a 9-0 run to cut Prairie’s lead to 46-43.
Lincoln sophomore Faith Brantley, who finished with a game-high 22 points, tied the contest at 51-51 with just under three minutes remaining in the contest. But the Abes’ offense would go cold the rest of the way as they missed their final six shots from the field.
While that was happening, Prairie couldn’t miss down the stretch, making all four its shots with sophomore Cassidy Gardner accounting for three of those, including a late 3-pointer.
The Abes also got 19 points from Morticia McCall.
“We weren’t closers tonight. Against good teams you got to be closers,” Jones said. “We’ve earned the right to put ourselves in a really good situation. This is another opportunity for us to learn. Any time you lose, it’s an opportunity to learn. I will trade some wins now for some wins in early March.”
Lincoln will face Pierce County League rival Bethel at Capital High School on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. with the winner securing the district’s No. 3 seed. The Abes won both regular season meetings this year against the Braves.
Prairie will play Gig Harbor, a 54-48 winner over Bethel in the other semifinal matchup, in Saturday’s district title game at Puyallup High School.
Gig Harbor 54, Bethel 46: The Tides rode the offense of Maddie Willett, Brynna Maxwell and Emily Shields to a win over the Braves.
“Bethel tried to keep the ball out of Maxwell’s hands, but the other two stepped up and scored some key buckets,” said Gig Harbor coach Megan Murray. “I am proud of my girls, they played hard and dug deep.”
Willett led her team with 18 points, Maxwell scored 14 and Shields put in 13 as well.
The Braves were led by Tianna Brown, scoring a game high 21 points. Sister Tiarra Brown was the other leading scorer for the Braves with 13 points.
“They hit some outside shots, but we made sure to recover quickly and we stuck with that. It worked out well in the second half,” Murray said.
The Tides will play Prairie for the 3A West Central/Southwest bi-district championship at noon Saturday at Puyallup High School.
2A WEST CENTRAL DISTRICT
North Kitsap 53, Franklin Pierce 39: Alexius Foster’s 25 points were not enough as the Cardinals couldn’t keep up in the second quarter and fell short of reaching the 2A West Central District title game.
Franklin Pierce was outscored 17-4 in the second quarter. It will play one more district game against Port Angeles at noon Saturday at Foss before heading to the regional round of the 2A state tournament next week.
White River 42, Port Angeles 31: The Hornets pulled away in the second half to secure a spot in the district title game. They will face North Kitsap at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Foss.
Tacoma Baptist 56, Northwest Yeshiva 22: The Crusaders were able to clinch a berth to the 1B state tournament with their win over the 613s, thanks to Rachel VanLiew.
“It was a special game for my girls,” said coach Beth Wing. “We already knew that we will make it to state even though we have one more game, but it was still a great defensive effort tonight.”
VanLiew was the source of offense for the Crusaders as she knocked down 19 points on the night, as well as grabbing 12 rebounds to earn a double-double.
Brooklyn Pascua also made her mark as she scored 16 points to help bolster the Crusader lead over the 613s. Northwest Yeshiva was led by Tamar Jacobson with nine points.
News Tribune staff contributed to this report.
Prairie 62, Lincoln 53
P-Tangeman 9, Williams 10, Prom 13, Gardner 9, Walling 19, Corral 2.
L-Brantley 22, Donahue 2, Montgomery 5, McCall 19, Brown 2, Salevao 3.