Some of the best players from this South Sound region had some of the best performances the Tacoma Dome has ever hosted.
There were electric matchups, big plays and thrilling finishes, but one thing was missing — no local team had brought home the gold ball state championship trophy on Saturday.
Then Sunday came. The clock struck 12:10 a.m. when the final buzzer of the final game in the 2017-18 season sounded and one of the more improbable of champions was crowned – Gig Harbor girls with the school’s first state basketball title.
Now someone go find coach Megan Murray a bed.
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“I have not slept at all,” Murray said just after posing for a team championship photo. “My brain won’t shut off. I’ve just been on adrenaline all day. But very well worth it.”
The Tides won a back-and-forth game against Garfield of Seattle, 51-48, behind their smooth, lanky point guard Brynna Maxwell, who finished with 31 points and broke the current-format 3A tournament scoring record, averaging 27.7 points per game in Gig Harbor’s three wins in three days. She earned the 3A tournament MVP.
And she’s a junior.
“I’ll tell you one thing, I’m not surprised,” Murray said. “But it’s amazing. Like I said earlier, it’s just the daily grind, all the work that she puts in, it’s worth it. It just pays off.”
Gig Harbor’s title came despite six losses on the season. The other three Tacoma Dome state champions – Central Valley girls (4A), Gonzaga Prep boys (4A) and Garfield boys (3A) finished their seasons with one loss combined.
And what a year for Gig Harbor. On Saturday the school’s baseball team plays its first game of the season in defense of its state title.
“We went out with a bang,” Maxwell said. “Everyone is going to remember Gig Harbor next year.”
One of many things from this that people are likely to be remembering.
Like that 4A title game between Federal Way and Gonzaga Prep, both led by talented juniors – Federal Way’s 6-foot-9 Jaden McDaniels and Gonzaga Prep’s Anton Watson. They were the two most impressive players of the final three days of the 4A tournament.
Federal Way’s run ended with its second loss of the season – but about two inches more on Jalen Womack’s heave from just inside halfcourt and the Eagles would have been celebrating their fourth championship in the past nine years.
The Tacoma schools ran into some thrilling semifinal games. Foss lost in the 2A boys semis against W.F. West, with a final heave from senior Demetrius Crosby landing off the mark. It came one year after the Falcons won Tacoma’s first title since Lincoln won it all in 2002.
But there was only one school that had “Tacoma” written on the scoreboard. Tacoma Baptist coach Rich Hamlin noticed that before his fourth-sixth place against Odessa in the 1B tournament in Spokane, with Tacoma Baptist’s name being too long to have its full name.
“I commented to one of my assistant coaches that I kind of liked that we are representing Tacoma,” Hamlin said. Tacoma Baptist placed sixth (the only school from Western Washington to place in the 1B tournament) and that was its’ highest finish since 1997.
Do-it-all senior PJ Talen capped his stellar career by breaking the school's 36-year-old all-time scoring record (1,748 points).
More on Tacoma schools: Wilson reached the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year despite UConn signee and senior Emmitt Matthews Jr. playing with a brace on his broken right wrist the whole tournament.
Lincoln clinched a 3A third-place trophy, with the Abes celebrating, hooting and hollering after rallying to beat Eastside Catholic.
But it would have been easy to envision them playing in Saturday night’s primetime slot against No. 1 Garfield for the 3A boys title, especially after Lincoln had led most of its semifinal game against Rainier Beach the night before, with the Abes’ former MVP player, Tre Anderson, scoring a game-high 27 points for his new school.
Anderson was the high scorer for Rainier Beach again on Saturday, scoring 27, including three free throws to tie the game with 6.5 seconds left to force overtime. But Rainier Beach eventually lost to Garfield in the 3A championship.
Anderson averaged 27.3 points in Rainier Beach’s three tournament games, with only record-breaking Erik Stevenson of Timberline averaging more (29.5 points).
That made it almost impossible to not imagine where Lincoln might be if Anderson stayed in Tacoma for his senior season as part of an all-returning starting five from Lincoln’s semifinal loss to Nathan Hale last season.
“Whether he leaves or stays, who knows what happens,” Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton said after the Abes’ loss to Beach. “But I don’t ‘think they get this far without him, that’s for sure.”
Interestingly enough, Garfield’s point guard is also from Tacoma, Pierre Crockrell Jr., who was the Bulldogs’ most consistent top contributor all tournament. He said he had lived all over Tacoma and University place before moving to California in the eighth grade and played at Prolific Prep, where he played alongside Josh Jackson, who now plays in the NBA for the Phoenix Suns.
But he moved back to Washington before this school year and said he was enticed by the opportunity to play for three-time NBA All-Star Brandon Roy at Garfield.
“I just look at fit,” said Crockrell, who scored 19 points in Garfield’s 72-63 overtime win over rival Rainier Beach. “And (Roy’s) and great coach. Why wouldn’t you want to play for an NBA legend?”
But it was up to Gig Harbor in the late hours to make sure a South Sound school won a state title for the fourth consecutive year.
Gig Harbor and Garfield went back and forth all night, exchanging leads well into the fourth quarter. With 14 seconds to go, Gig Harbor leading 47-46, Maxwell went to the line.
She nailed both free throws, putting the Tides up by three, 49-46. Then after a double dribble call on Garfield, senior Maddie Willett was fouled and went to the line. She made both of her free throws, putting Gig Harbor up, 51-46 and sealing the game.
All told, Gig Harbor went a perfect 100 percent from the free-throw line: 21-for-21.
Maxwell was 12-for-12 from the line.
“We knew all along that was the goal from the start we’re going to win a state championship no one believed us,” Maxwell said. “Everyone doubted us and we were the only team that thought we were going to get this far. I’m just so proud of my team.”
And her scoring record came a day after Timberline’s Erik Stevenson broke the current-format 3A boys tournament record set last year by future NBA lottery pick Michael Porter Jr. Stevenson averaged 29.5 points per game and scored 118 points over four games with the Blazers placing fourth. Normally the tournament MVP goes to a team playing for a championship, but Stevenson impressed enough to get it despite Timberline losing to Lincoln in the quarterfinals.
“He did his thing and I am speechless about what this kid is capable of,” Timberline coach Allen Thomas said of the Wichita State signee. “Hopefully the world will know who he is — quickly.”
Stevenson and Maxwell are both from the 3A South Sound Conference. And they both saved their best for the brightest lights – neither earned MVP of their league.
It was Timberline’s highest finish since 1981, and Gig Harbor’s highest ever.
So what was Murray’s plan after the Tides’ late-night title?
It wasn’t to go sleep.
“Go to Disney land, right,” she laughed. “I won’t sleep after this. There’s no way. My brain is going 100 miles per hour right now. We’ll go celebrate and hang out and we’re going to make this last. No way are we just going to get on the bus and go home. We’ll figure out something.”
Staff writers Jon Manley and Lauren Smith contributed to this report
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
*All-tournament teams were voted on by various WIAA-credentialed media members.
4A BOYS ALL-TOURNAMENT
Most valuable player: Anton Watson, Gonzaga Prep, jr.
Jaden McDaniels, Federal Way, jr.
Naje Smith, Lewis and Clark, sr.
Kaden Anderson, Enumclaw, sr.
Alex Schumacher, Skyview, jr.
Jamaari Jones, Gonzaga Prep, jr.
Riley Sorn, Richland, sr.
Cole Northrup, Richland, jr.
Samaad Hector, Skyview, sr.
Carson Tuttle, Kamiak, sr.
3A BOYS ALL-TOURNAMENT
Most valuable player: Erik Stevenson, Timberline, sr.
Kevin Porter Jr., Rainier Beach, sr.
Tre Anderson, Rainier Beach, sr.
Pierre Crockrell Jr., Garfield, sr.
Emmett Linton III, Lincoln, sr.
Brock Mackenzie, Eastside Catholic, sr.
Shaw Anderson, Kelso, jr.
Emmitt Matthews Jr., Wilson, sr.
Eddie Turner, Garfield, sr.
Cal Hansen, O’Dea, sr.
4A GIRLS ALL-TOURNAMENT
Most valuable player: Lexie Hull, Central Valley, sr.
Mia Hughes, Woodinville, fr.
Jamie Loera, Moses Lake, sr.
Keeli Burton, Eastlake, so.
Lacie Hull, Central Valley, sr.
Ellie Boni, University, so.
Jordyn Jenkins, Kentridge, so.
Claire Dingus, University, sr.
Gina Marxen, Eastlake, sr.
Madison Dubois, Woodinville, jr.
3A GIRLS ALL-TOURNAMENT
Most valuable player: Brynna Maxwell, Gig Harbor, jr.
Dalayah Daniels, Garfield, so.
Oumou Toure, Kamiakin, jr.
Jasmine Gayles, West Seattle, jr.
Maddie Willett, Gig Harbor, sr.
Bea Franklin, Seattle Prep, jr.
Ashley Alter, Stanwood, sr.
Jullian Heichel, Stanwood, sr.
Alexa Hazel, Kamiakin, jr.
Meghan Fiso, West Seattle, so.