Brynna Maxwell saved the best for last.
In the Class 3A state championship game against Garfield High on Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome, Maxwell was brilliant, scoring 31 points and delivering Gig Harbor’s first ever girls basketball state title with a 51-48 win over the Bulldogs.
Maxwell was clutch, tough and fearless. She was unstoppable.
“Whatever it took for us to win,” Maxwell said. “If it was passing, shooting, rebounding, just whatever it took, and this game it just happened to be scoring. All glory to God, he gave me the ability to do this and I’m just so grateful, so blessed. Everyone doubted us. We’re the only ones that even thought we could get this far. I’m just so proud of my team.”
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.
Maybe it was all that free-throw practice Gig Harbor coach Megan Murray forced the team to do all season.
“If they don’t meet a certain mark in practice, they’ve got to stay after and shoot 50 free throws,” Murray said. “It’s just those extra shots and getting that mindset. … All that stuff carries over into tonight. 21 out of 21 is incredible. What a way to end.”
With Maxwell’s 31 points on Saturday, she is now the 3A state tournament record holder in points with 83, surpassing Kamiakin’s Oumou Tooure, who had the previous mark in 2017 with 77. Maxwell also shattered the highest average points record with 27.7 points per game, breaking the previous mark of 22.3, set by Bellevue’s Shelby Cansler in 2014. The WIAA’s tournament records are divided between 1978-2010 and 2011-present.
Gig Harbor, undersized against Garfield, knew it would be in for a tough game. The contest got a little chippy at times, with players from both teams confronting each other throughout the game. Willett was in the face of Garfield 6-foot-4 sophomore star Dalayah Daniels on more than one occasion. Daniels finished with a team-high 20 points for the Bulldogs.
“I don’t back down from anyone,” Willett said. “No one can get in my head.”
For Gig Harbor, the growing process has been gradual since Murray took over the program four years ago. It all culminated with a state title for the Tides, the first in program history.
“It’s just been a process of working hard, playing together and believing in each other,” Willett said. “This is what we work hard for, day in and day out.”
For Murray, who estimates she has slept less than ten hours total in the past three days, all the hard work leading to this point was worth the reward.
“It’s what I told the girls: ‘This is why we grind every single day in practice, why I yell at you girls, why I expect certain things from you girls. This is why,’” she said.
When told that her star junior, Maxwell, was the new tournament points record holder, Murray wasn’t caught off guard.
“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. I know she’s one happy kid out there.”
Despite the game not tipping off until about 10:30 p.m., and not ending until well into the early hours of Sunday morning, Murray said the team was going to celebrate.
After they do, and the hype winds down, Maxwell and the squad will be back in the gym, ready to give it another go in her senior season. Maxwell offered a prediction on the heels of the state title win.
“We went out with a bang,” Maxwell said. “Everyone is going to remember Gig Harbor next year.”
Garfield: Daniels 20, Tolliver 15, Turner 3, Williams 2, Brundidge 2, Howard 2, Henley 2, Mobley 2.
Gig Harbor: Maxwell 31, Willett 14, Langworthy 6.