The blueprint for success all season for the Todd Beamer girls basketball team has been to apply as much defensive pressure as possible, forcing an abundance of turnovers which the Titans convert to easy transition points.
But how do you rattle a squad that hasn’t tasted defeat in almost two years and features, arguably, the top tandem in the state?
The Titans and their athletic cast of juniors appeared to have the answer.
Then Laura Stockton struck.
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Stockton scored 13 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer with 8 seconds to play and undefeated Gonzaga Prep pulled out a 41-39 win over Beamer in the semifinals of the Class 4A girls state basketball tournament Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
“Please go in,” Stockton said. “That’s all I was thinking.”
With the shot clock dwindling down and the Bullpups trailing by 1, the daughter of Basketball Hall of Famer John Stockton fired a deep 3 from the top of the arc that found its mark, sending Gonzaga Prep back to the state championship game.
“We probably held the ball a little too long,” Stockton said about her team’s final possession. “I knew we needed to get a shot off. Luckily, it went in.”
Beamer had one last chance to tie the game, but turned the ball over immediately after crossing midcourt.
“Big players make big shots,” Beamer coach Corey Alexander said about Stockton. “And that certainly was a big shot.”
The Bullpups will take a 49-game winning streak and a lot of confidence into Saturday’s championship game against Inglemoor as they look to become just the sixth school to win consecutive titles in the classification.
Gonzaga Prep defeated Mount Rainier, 53-51, in 2014 to claim the program’s first state title.
The Titans (26-2) will play Moses Lake for third place at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“This was a statement game for this program,” Alexander said. “I am very pleased with how we played against the defending state champions. We were right there all the way. This is our first trip to state, but Beamer is not going anywhere for a while.”
Quinessa Caylao-Do had 20 points for Beamer, which saw its 19-game winning streak snapped.
Otiona Gildon scored 11 points, while teammate Oona Harrington added 10 for Gonzaga Prep (26-0).
Defensively, the Titans could not have asked for a better first half as they held a 20-14 lead at the break.
Beamer forwards Darion Brown and Makenna Woodfolk both fared well against Gildon on the blocks, holding Gonzaga Prep’s leading scorer to just two points in the first half.
The duo’s low-post defense was so solid early on that Gildon did not get an offensive touch down low until late in the first quarter and didn’t score her first points until there was 3 1/2 minutes left in the first half.
Gildon finished the first half 1 for 7 from the field with three rebounds — far below the Oregon-bound senior’s usual output.
She wasn’t alone in her offensive struggles, however, as the Bullpups missed 14 of their first 16 shots to trail by nine points midway through the second quarter, 16-7.
The strong defensive performance helped Beamer overcome a rough first half where they shot 26 percent from the field.
Gonzaga Prep needed just the opening 5 minutes of the third quarter to surpass its first-half offensive production.
A baseline jumper by Harrington reclaimed the lead for the Bullpups at 29-28.
The teams traded basket until Gonzaga Prep grabbed its largest lead at 38-34 with 3 minutes to play in the contest.
The Titans answered with a 5-0 run with a Nia Alexander basket with 55 seconds remaining putting Beamer up 39-38.