YAKIMA — Playing in the 9 a.m. game to open the Class 2A girls state basketball tournament might be a drag, but “there are a lot of positives, too,” W.F. West High School coach Henri Weeks said.
A prime example: finishing for the day at 10:22 a.m. and heading off to scout your semifinal opponent, as the Bearcats did after their 53-37 victory over East Valley of Spokane on Thursday at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
An early finisher also can get in an additional shootaround, as well as extra ice baths before Friday’s semifinal game.
“You have a day and a half to recover,” Weeks said.
Thursday’s victory guarantees the Bearcats (23-2) a state trophy for the fourth consecutive year. They’ll face Lynden at 3:45 p.m. Friday for a spot in Saturday’s state title game.
Lynden rallied from a late nine-point
deficit to stun Port Angeles, 53-52. Mark Morris, which beat W.F. West in last year’s state championship game, will face Ellensburg in Friday’s other semifinal.
Julie Spencer had a game-high 16 points for W.F. West, and Tori Weeks and Nike McClure each finished with 12, but the Bearcats didn’t get a comfortable lead until the fourth quarter.
East Valley (20-4) didn’t have a player taller than 5-foot-9 against a W.F. West team that started three players 6-2 or taller, but the Knights hung around.
Alex Rankin’s basket cut the Bearcats’ lead to 37-28 with 6:52 to go. But after an East Valley timeout, the Bearcats went on a 14-3 run to pull away. A pair of Weeks free throws gave W.F. West a 51-31 advantage with under four minutes remaining.
Spencer, who also had seven rebounds and two blocked shots, said the Bearcats regrouped late and reminded one another to play as a cohesive unit.
“We like to say, ‘Play like a fist, and don’t play like five separate players. Play all together,’ ” Spencer said.
W.F. West’s Tiana Parker did not score but still had a big impact with nine rebounds and six blocks. She was one block shy of tying the state single-game record shared by three players, including Parker’s older sister, Jamika, who achieved it in 2011.
The Bearcats finished with 11 blocks to tie the state single-game record, set by Pullman in 2010 against River Ridge.
Parker started in place of Katie Hankins, who suffered a concussion in Saturday’s regional game against Bellingham.
Hankins did not play Thursday, and Henri Weeks said she would be re-evaluated Friday.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com theolympian.com/ southsoundsports @megwochnick