After four years of trying and failing, Bethel girls basketball coach John Ainslie finally got a win over his niece, Puyallup coach Cherokee Ainslie.
For that honor, John Ainslie owes his freshman point guard, Tianna Brown.
The 5-foot-8 standout led all scorers with 25 points, including six of the host Braves’ nine in the fourth quarter of a narrow 56-53 victory against the Vikings on Friday night in 4A SPSL South play.
“You’ve just got to trust her. She’s going to make mistakes. She is a freshman,” Ainslie said. “But with the ball in her hand, I trust her.”
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That trust was redeemed, especially after the Braves’ two post players, Jamia Moore and Jeronesia Lewis, each had three fouls before the end of the first half, putting pressure on their backcourt to carry the team. Bethel (6-2, 4-0 SPSL South) exploited Puyallup’s aggressiveness on screen-and-roll plays to let Brown drive to the right and consistently get open layups.
Puyallup (3-4, 1-2) ended the third quarter on a 7-0 run to start the fourth within one point at 47-46, but was never able to take a lead. The Vikings hung within four points or fewer for the entire period, including getting to 54-53 on a field goal Madison Salisbury made despite being fouled. The sophomore missed the ensuing free throw, however, and a series of missed three-pointers around a pair of Brown free throws put the game at its final margin.
Brown said she and her backcourt mates V-Chanti Carson and Me’osha Mack have a simple way to compensate for when Bethel’s post players are in foul trouble: “We just have to play harder.”
After the game, Ainslie called Carson and Mack calming influences on Brown; Carson had 12 points for the Braves, and Mack had nine.
That calming influence was exemplified when Carson hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to end the first quarter, and Mack beat the shot clock in the first play of the second quarter with a three of her own.
“I think it was really good, because we tend to, after the first quarter, we think that we’re doing really good so we start to go down,” Brown said of the three-pointers. “But I think we kept it up.”
Junior guard Kylie Myers led the Vikings with 10 points, and sophomore guard Sophie DeWitt added nine.
Bethel’s coach says he plans to retire after next season, but thanks to this victory, he can do so with one more accomplishment in his back pocket.
“At least now, when I retire, I don’t have to worry about, ‘Hey, you never beat me, Uncle John,’ ” he said. “Next year is probably it. I’ve been around 31 years, and that’s a long time.”