Freddie Rehkow doesn’t pretend to know where this top-ranked Central Valley Bears girls basketball team belongs among the state’s all-time best programs.
But the Bears’ coach does believe his squad is as good a defensive unit as there ever has been.
And who would argue after Central Valley’s convincing 70-39 victory over No. 5 Woodinville in the Class 4A championship game Saturday night in the Tacoma Dome?
The Falcons had trouble dribbling, passing and getting off shots against Central Valley’s fast-flying hands. Heck, they could barely breathe.
“Nobody works harder than them on defense, I don’t care,” Rehkow said. “Nobody.”
With the win, the Bears (27-0) completed the 12th undefeated season for a 4A girls champion. In fact, it was the fourth time this Greater Spokane League powerhouse completed the feat.
“For a lot of us, it was our last game,” said Stanford-bound Bears standout Lexie Hull. the 4A tournament most valuable player. “That is what got us going. It was our last chance to give it our all.”
To be fair, Woodinville had played three consecutive overtime games to reach its first 4A final.
“(Coach Scott Bullock’s) team did some amazing things with three overtime games,” Rehkow said. “We knew they were going to be tired, and we had to take advantage of that.
“We got out and we were not going to slow down.”
It was a game that was essentially decided in the first 2:48.
Lacie Hull hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions that triggered a big Central Valley run. She also had two assists and a blocked shot.
And by the time Hailey Christopher put back a Lacie Hull miss, the Bears led 12-1 at the 5:12 mark of the first quarter.
Suddenly, the Tacoma Dome went real quiet.
“We had a lot of energy coming in,” said Lacie Hull, who led Central Valley with 19 points, 10 rebounds and six steals. “We were super pumped for this game. The beginning, it felt great.”
And it became noticeable that the Falcons were losing steam quickly under the Bears’ relentless pressure.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a better defensive team come through,” Bullock said. “All the passing lanes, you think they are open – they are not open. They get steals, and that leads to easy buckets.”
Back-to-back steals by Lacie Hull late in the first half fed Central Valley’s transition offense. Mady Simmerlink canned a corner 3-pointer to extend the Bears’ lead to 33-9 with 2:40 remaining.
And what a first half it was. Woodinville was forced into 17 turnovers and made just four of 21 field goal attempts.
Thirteen of those turnovers came on Bears steals.
“We put our money where our mouth was,” Rehkow said. “The kids did a great job.”
The only remaining question was whether the Bears’ were going to grow their lead to more than 40 points and invoke the WIAA’s “mercy rule,” which meant the second half would be played under a running clock for the first time ever in a state championship game.
Central Valley’s lead reached 36 points a few times, but Rehkow made sure to play his reserves a lot of minutes down the stretch.
The Bears finished with 19 steals, which was shy of Pasco’s single-game state tournament record of 26, set in 2009 against Graham-Kapowsin.
But what they got in the end meant so much more — the big round state trophy.
“It is going to look good back in the trophy case at Central Valley,” Rehkow said.