Tom Kelly, during his long coaching career with three high schools, has never lost two games in a row at a state tournament.
That is still true.
On the final day of the Class 2A state tournament at the Yakima Valley SunDome, Kelly’s fourth-ranked W.F. West girls rallied from a double-digit deficit to win a third-place trophy.
The Bearcats, in their fourth meeting of the season with Black Hills, went on a 14-3 run in the fourth quarter to edge the top-ranked Wolves, 51-50, on Saturday afternoon.
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“I just thought it was a really gutsy performance,” Kelly said. “When you lose that semifinal game, it’s hard to pick up the pieces and get back, and they did.”
Julia Johnson, a junior, hit the game-winning shot for W.F. West with 11 seconds to play.
She grabbed her own rebound, and put up a contested layup over two defenders that circled the rim before falling through the hoop.
Emma Duff couldn’t get a buzzer-beater to fall at the other end for the Wolves, and the Bearcats bench erupted in celebration.
“We’ve lost to Black Hills three times, and we just needed this win,” Johnson said. “It’s just better than first place.”
That seemed to be the consensus.
“In a way, because of who we beat — our rival,” Kelly said.
Black Hills (23-3) won its second straight undefeated 2A Evergreen Conference title earlier this season, and its second consecutive 2A Southwest District title.
The Wolves bested the Bearcats (22-5) in all three meetings prior to Saturday.
“The fourth time is the charm,” Kelly said. “They were missing Maisy (Williams), a big part of their team, and I hope she gets well soon.”
Both teams lost heartbreakers in the 2A state semifinals on Friday night.
Black Hills couldn’t regroup from a late rally by Burlington-Edison, and lost sophomore forward Maisy Williams — the game’s leading scorer — with three minutes to play after she was elbowed in the face and had a tooth knocked out.
W.F. West lost an early lead in the following game and watched Lynden slip away.
“Anybody can get knocked down,” Kelly said. “It’s how you get back up. … That’s the truth. I’m not the first coach to say that.
“They were devastated (Friday) night, and I was too. … What a comeback.”
Johnson (11 points), freshman Maggie Vadala (11) and junior Kiara Steen (10) paced the Bearcats.
Vadala hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 32.1 seconds to play to shave Black Hills’ lead — which was as large as 16 points in the third quarter — to one point.
Then, after a Wolves’ turnover, came Johnson’s winner.
“We just wanted to get a shot up,” she said. “It wasn’t just me. Maggie hit that three. We all contributed and we just won as a team.”
It was the ninth trophy that W.F. West — which has appeared at state tournaments 12 times — has won in its history, and the sixth in the past seven years.
“It was a big task,” Black Hills senior Emma Duff said. “They’re a good team, and not having Maisy, that takes away a lot of defense, a lot of offense, a lot of heart.”
Duff, The Olympian’s All-Area player of the year, scored a game-high 21 points and pulled down six rebounds in her final high school game.
Her fifth 3-pointer of the game, with 5:36 to go, gave Black Hills its only points of the fourth quarter.
“After (Friday) night, that was when it kind of hit us,” Duff said. “We weren’t really concerned about the whole not making it to the state title game anymore.
“We all just got in cars and went to the dentist and sat there for Maisy.”
“The girls were just heartbroken for her,” Black Hills coach Tanya Greenfield said. “Their concern was more about her.”
Duff, a Western Washington signee, finished her career with 1,248 points. She said it was difficult to rally from Friday night, but the Wolves held the lead against W.F. West most of the way.
Megan River, a freshman, chipped in 11 points for Black Hills. Greenfield and Duff agreed that Black Hills’ younger players played well.
“They had to really step up, and they knew that, we talked about that,” Duff said. “Not having Maisy, everyone had to step up.
“I think they did a really good job with that. I’m excited to watch them next year. They’re losing five of us, but I think they can make up for it.”
Black Hills finished fifth and brings home its sixth trophy in 12 state appearances, and second consecutive — the Wolves took sixth a year ago.
“It’s really special,” Duff said. “These girls are really what makes it so special to me. … I’ve learned a lot from Tanya, I’ve learned a lot from the assistant coaches. I’m really going to miss that.
“But it’s really the teammates — that’s the biggest thing. That’s why everyone is crying. You don’t get those days in the gym with them anymore. It’s emotional, but I’m glad we ended it in Yakima.”
Black Hills 17 13 17 3_50
W.F. West 4 18 15 14_51
BH – LaBelle 5, Patti 6, Duff 21, Nurmi 5, River 11, Serhan 2
WFW – Johnson 11, Lofgren 2, Brumfield 6, Steen 10, Strasser 2, Vadala 11, S. Haakenson 4, McCallum 3