The lane suddenly became wide open with Anushka Maldonado watching from the bench.
Maldonado had been whistled for her third and fourth fouls in less than 2 minutes, turning Yelm’s leading scorer and 6-foot-1 force in the paint into a spectator.
Rachel Shim took full advantage of her absence. It would not be a tight contest for much longer.
Shim scored 12 of her game-high 16 points in the second half, and Haley Smith added 15 as Skyline knocked off Narrows League 4A champion Yelm, 61-48, in Class 4A state regional action Friday at Rogers High School in Puyallup.
Maldonado led the Tornados with 15 points before fouling out with 33 seconds to play.
Yelm also received 10 points from both McKaiela Tyler and Dalia Bader.
“Anushka’s a special kid,” Yelm coach Russ Riches said. “When she’s in the game we’re able to do a lot of different things. When she was out, they were able to take advantage of it, and that was really the difference tonight.”
Skyline (20-5) advanced to the state tournament, which begins Thursday at the Tacoma Dome.
Yelm finished its season with a 20-5 record.
“Its disappointing to lose,” Riches said, “but this was a special group of players. We had an incredible run. These girls worked hard every day in practice, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
The Tornados led 30-29 early in the third quarter.
The teams traded buckets with Skyline holding a 39-35 lead when Maldonado was called for her third foul with 11/2 minutes to play in the quarter.
She briefly exited, and Shim took over, driving the lane on three consecutive trips and hitting layups to kick-start an 11-1 run for the Spartans.
Maldonado returned in the fourth quarter but was back on the bench with less than a minute gone by.
Shim continued to push the offense, helping Skyline take its largest lead at 50-36 midway through the fourth.
Yelm continued to battle, trimming the deficit to 50-41 before Shim answered again, this time draining a 3-pointer.
“We made a few baskets and had some good opportunities to get back in it late,” Riches said, “but it’s hard trying to battle back at this stage of the season. Every team is going to be tough.”
Despite falling one win shy of a trip to the Tacoma Dome, the Tornados still managed to post one of the greatest seasons in school history.
The year was highlighted by a 15-game winning streak, including two victories over Bellarmine Prep. Yelm ended the Lions’ four-year stranglehold as league champions.
Yelm’s first postseason run in the 4A classification also included a trio of wins at the West Central District tournament en route to a No. 3 regional seed.
“I told the girls in the locker room that it hurts now,” Riches said, “but they will look back and see just how much they accomplished this season.”
Skyline led 27-26 at halftime, getting 10 points from Smith, a University of Colorado commit.