Jamila Jones knows everything is a process.
Including winning a Class 3A state girls basketball championship.
Seventh-ranked Lincoln took a giant leap forward in this state tournament, winning two games and reaching the 3A semifinals for the first time in 37 years.
But the Abes not only ran into the poised No. 1 team in the state, Bishop Blanchet, they also ran into a senior group that had made two deep runs before, including a state title game appearance in 2014.
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And when the game got close Friday, Braves point guard Taylor Chambers kicked it up a gear. Her decision-making and passing were the difference in helping the Braves hold off Lincoln, 55-42, in the Tacoma Dome.
Bishop Blanchet (25-1) will play for the 3A title Saturday at 3 p.m. The Abes can still take home their second-best finish ever in the third-place game.
As each teary-eyed Abes player walked by Jones in the locker room hallway afterward, the coach’s heart dropped. He ached, too.
“Again, it is the first time we’ve done anything remotely close to this,” Jones said. “It is a new experience for them. It’s a new experience for our school. Any time we lose, it is an opportunity to learn — and we will learn from this.”
It was a drastically different start for the Abes, who jumped out to sizable leads in their first two games of the tournament in wins over West Seattle and Stanwood.
Blanchet sank five first-half 3-pointers, and went to intermission with a 32-22 lead after shooting 59.1 percent from the floor.
“I claimed it (with the team),” Jones said. “I stayed in the zone a little too long.”
But the Abes (21-7) worked their way back into it behind Morticia McCall, who finished with a team-high 16 points. She hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut Blanchet’s lead to 38-33 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
And McCall’s basket early in the fourth quarter got Lincoln even closer — 41-38.
That is when Chambers dominated for a two-minute stretch, hitting Jillese and Jadyn Bush with off-pick passes for easy buckets.
Chambers’ final assist was a dagger. Inbounding from the side, she threw a lob pass over everyone that dropped into the arms of Jillese Bush, who laid it in and was fouled.
The 6-foot junior completed the three-point play, and the Braves were in control, 54-42, with 2:10 remaining.
“(Chambers) is pretty good,” Blanchet coach Brett Hecko said with a wry smile. “She didn’t shoot it real well, but she did distribute it … especially down the stretch.”
Chambers charmed many onlookers with her deft passing the first two years, leading the Braves to a pair of 3A semifinal appearances.
But last summers in an AAU game, Chambers took one step and hyperextended her right knee. It was discovered she had torn her anterior cruciate ligament.
Hecko said the team proceeded this season under the assumption it would be without Chambers. But the senior battled back and played her first game on senior night in February, starting ever since.
“So far I have felt good, even in these back-to-back games,” Chambers said. “I played well yesterday, and again today. It is nice to be able to come back and keep going.”
Jadyn Bush, who is going to Harvard, led all scorers with 22 points — 17 coming in the first half.