Down by as many as eight points in the third quarter, the Bellarmine Prep girls basketball team rallied to take a one-point lead with a minute remaining Thursday at the Tacoma Dome against Central Valley — the undefeated state champions with a No. 1 ranking and a 52-game win streak.
The Bears hit a pair of free throws to take back the lead and it seemed the Lions would come so close, but not quite pull off the unthinkable.
Shalyse Smith wouldn’t have that narrative.
With a little over 30 seconds left in the game, she received the inbounds pass from Ciara Gatpatan and drove into the lane.
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Smith’s layup with 25 seconds to go gave Bellarmine the 56-55 win, toppling the giants of Central Valley — a team so dominant that one media outlet called this state tournament the Central Valley tournament.
You couldn’t tell that to Smith, the University of Arizona commit.
“It was tough out there,” she said. “I just love my team. We play so well together and we knew we had this game and we came out with the win.”
Smith scored a game-high 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. She outplayed Central Valley twins Lacie Hull (14 points, six rebounds) and Lexie Hull (13 points, 12 rebounds) who are both committed to Stanford.
The Lions are heading to the state semifinals for the first time and will play Kentridge — a team it split meetings with this season — at 7:15 p.m. Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
“That was a great high school basketball game between two very talented high school basketball team,” Bellarmine Prep coach Kevin Meines said. “Central Valley made us work for it, but there was no way that we were going to lose that game.”
The Lions’ comeback started when Jenny Hagle sank a 3-pointer from the corner to cut the Bears’ lead to five points.
After a Central Valley layup, Hagle made another 3 to cut the lead to four.
“She’s been doing that for us all year and nobody has been paying any attention to her,” Meines said. “After tonight, they better start paying attention to her because that kid can shoot the lights out.”
Hagle finished with 13 points, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and 4-for-4 at the foul line.
But she wasn’t the only player for the Lions to come through in the clutch. With less than three minutes to go, Madeline Garcia found a seam in the Bears’ defense to give the Lions a two-point lead.
“Every single kid contributed tonight,” Meines said. “We had big shots being hit, defensive stops being made, blocking some shots by great players. We did a great team job.”
And the leader of that team is none other than Smith. It was her final layup that gave the Lions the lead to secure the win over the Bears.
“I was thinking ‘Man, we beat the team with the 52-game win streak!’ ” she said. “It feels amazing. We knew this was going to be a championship game for us. We fought through it and won.”