For those who just assumed the Class 2A state girls basketball championships were set up to be a three-school showdown — well there is some breaking news.
Unranked Liberty High School is more than ready to join the fray.
In what was arguably the school’s biggest playoff game in recent memory, the Patriots’ frenetic pace completely disrupted third-ranked White River in the second half, leading to Liberty’s 62-52 victory in the 2A West Central District 3 semifinals Wednesday night at Bellarmine Prep.
It is an all-KingCo final for the district title as the Patriots meet Sammamish on Saturday at Foss High School. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Cherelle Demps was terrific for Liberty (16-7), scoring a career-high 30 points. She was too quick to guard in the lane. She also made all six free throw attempts in the final 43.4 seconds.
“She was huge,” Patriots coach Carly Fromdahl said. “I know how much she wants that state title.”
To hear Fromdahl mention that goal would have seemed a tad far-fetched before the game. But Liberty is deep, athletic and streaky when it comes to making shots, and can run with a team such as defending 2A champion Mark Morris.
“They are a top 4-5 team, no question,” White River coach Chris Gibson said.
For as easy as it seemed for the Hornets in the first quarter — they scored 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the floor — they struggled to get any offense going the rest of the way.
Part of it was foul trouble. And a big part of it was Liberty’s pressure defense.
“They came out and got into our kitchen a little bit, and we didn’t handle it well,” Gibson said. “We panicked a little bit, and freaked out with the basketball … and didn’t get into a set again.”
White River’s 34-24 halftime lead disappeared in the first 3:34 of the third quarter. Sarah Bliesner started it by hitting a 3-pointer from the corner that triggered a 13-2 run. The Patriots made four 3-pointers in the third quarter.
The Hornets (20-3) trimmed Liberty’s lead to 44-43 on Kayla Howard’s scoop shot early in the fourth quarter. Two minutes later, Danielle Demps sank a 3-pointer, stole the inbounds pass and scored on another lay-in to push the lead to 53-45 with 4:50 to go.
Kendall Bird had 12 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Hornets.
White River still has clinched a spot in the regional round but knows it will have to travel somewhere for a state play-in game as the WCD’s third or fourth seed.
“It’s never the easy way for us,” Gibson said. “But we’ve proven we can come back.”
Sammamish 49, Olympic 30: Totems coach Michael Schick knows his team will be the underdog in the district title game having lost two earlier games to Liberty.
“But we always rise up to the challenge,” Schick said.
Montana Hagstrom led the way Wednesday with 21 points — 15 coming in the first half as the Totems (12-10) built 27-15 halftime lead at Bellarmine Prep.
Hagstrom’s runner at the end of the third quarter extended Sammamish’s lead to 43-27.