Despite losing to Mercer Island 66-48 in the first round of the 3A state championships Wednesday, Bethel’s girls basketball team came away from the Tacoma Dome with experience and expectations.
The game started with a 6-0 run by the Islanders, and 1 minute, 53 seconds into the game, Braves coach John Ainslee called a timeout to talk to his team.
“We wanted them to understand that they were running around out there as if their heads were cut off,” he said. “I just told them ‘you got to do what got us here and we’re not doing that.’”
By the end of the first quarter, the Braves were down 14-5. Nanalia Wagoner made the first three Bethel points with just over four minutes to go.
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“Honestly, it takes confidence. Our team follows us in (sister Tiarra’s and my) footsteps so whatever we do, they do,” said junior guard Tianna Brown. “It takes heart from everyone and I am really proud of how much heart everyone had.”
The hoop was not friendly to Bethel. The Braves made only 20 percent of their field goals and 42.9 percent of their free throws in the first half. In the second half, things picked up a bit.
Tianna Brown was held to nine points, and Tiarra was to seven.
Wagoner led the team with 13 points and Ghionna Porreca added 10.
“It takes all of us; one person who shoots, one person who drives to get the whole team to work together,” Tiarra said. “We have to have a good attitude and set the tone for everybody.”
In the fourth, Porreca stole an inbounds pass to put up a quick two points for the Braves and Wagoner made quick back-to-back three point shots. But despite the quick scoring, there was no stopping Anna Luce.
The 6-foot-2 Islander’s senior center stood was easily the tallest player on the court.
“It was hard to adjust. We had to work around that, but we just couldn’t cover,” Ainslee said. “We knew that she was going to get her points and stop the other kids, but we didn’t do that real well.”
Luce finished with 27 points.
But even though the loss hurts now, Ainslee believes that a trip to the Dome is a privilege and it will help his youthful team.
“We’ll be back next year,” he said.