Bellarmine Prep was pleasantly good Wednesday.
Except for a few defensive lapses, the No. 4 Lions controlled most facets in their 68-58 victory over Woodinville in a Class 4A state loser-out game at the Tacoma Dome.
But on Thursday, they are going to have to play even better.
Some would say they have to be near perfect in not only trying to end No. 1 Central Valley’s 52-game winning streak, but its reign as defending 4A champion.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“Woodinville was a good team,” Lions coach Kevin Meines said. “But Central Valley is the team.”
The West Central District champions sure had plenty to build on Wednesday – starting with their unexpected scoring, which usually takes a back seat in Meines’ defense-first philosophy.
Junior Shalyse Smith was brilliant for the Lions (24-2) with 24 points on 9-for-17 shooting. Reyelle Frazier added 14 points – 12 coming in the first half.
And after halftime, after the Falcons (19-5) shifted to a triangle-and-2 defense to slow down those two players, Madeline Garcia and Jenny Hagle made Woodinville pay for it.
The two juniors hit back-to-back 3-pointers to push Bellarmine Prep’s lead to 39-31 at the 6:35 mark of the third quarter.
After Garcia hit another jumper in the lane, on the other end, Hagle read a pass back to midcourt, picked it off and sprinted the other way for an easy layup, and a 43-31 Lions’ advantage.
“Everybody focuses on Shalyse, but we have other kids that step up and hit timely baskets,” Meines said.
But in the end, even after Woodinville tightened it to a 56-54 lead with 3½ minutes remaining, it was Smith who had the final answer.
She made three inside baskets in the final 2:46 – the last off a steal near midcourt with 38 seconds to go that wrapped up Bellarmine Prep’s first state-tournament victory since 2014.
“We just went up strong on everything. We were finishing,” Smith said. “They couldn’t really stop us on the inside.
“It was a full, complete game for us.”
And now Smith will tangle with Central Valley star Lexie Hull. Both are top-50 recruits nationally for 2018.
“This is a championship game,” Smith said. “We’ve got to pick it up defensively. Today, we were slow on our rotations.”