There’s no way to measure which team actually “wants it more.”
The determination on the faces of Julia Johnson and Kiara Steen late in Saturday’s Class 2A championship game at the Yakima Valley SunDome made it clear the W.F. West High School seniors wanted the title badly.
When the top-ranked Bearcats brushed aside a 10-point Archbishop Murphy halftime lead with a 19-8 third quarter, Johnson scored 12 of her team-leading 18 points. When W.F. West pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 64-52 victory and the school’s second-ever state championship, Steen nailed two three-pointers, a driving floater and a pair of free throws.
“They came to life didn’t they?” said coach Tom Kelly, also Steen’s grandfather. “Those two took over and that was it.”
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The last time the Bearcats (24-2) won the 2A title, in 2014, Johnson and Steen were eighth graders. A seed was planted as they watched from the stands.
“We had to win it, this has been the goal from day one,” said Steen, who finished with 14 points.
Every team has the same dream, though, and Archbishop Murphy (24-2) began the game as though they would be fulfilling theirs. Two minutes into the second quarter, Julia Lucas scored a layup for the Wildcats that gave them a 25-10 lead.
“We just couldn’t make our shots,” Johnson said.
Kelly has been around a while and knows how quickly things can change. At halftime, as the Bearcats once again remained on the court rather than go to their distant lockerroom, he reminded them they had come back to beat Black Hills for third place a year ago on the same court after trailing by 18. Just a day before they rallied to beat East Valley of Yakima.
“I told them at halftime, ‘look we’re only down by 10,’ ” he said. “A couple of threes and this thing gets close, keep fighting, slow things down, don’t hurry.”
He had a receptive audience.
“We wanted to come out and fight, we knew we weren’t playing as hard as we could have,” said Johnson.
A Maddie Hill jumper gave Archbishop Murphy a 36-24 lead as the second half began, before Johnson and Steen went to work — pressing on defense and running on offense, getting plenty of contributions from their team mates.
It took the entire third quarter for W.F. West to wipe out the Wildcats’ lead, but when they did, it came with a bit of déjà vu. Taya McCallum, who hit a critical 3-pointer from the right wing against East Valley on Friday, swished a trey from the identical spot to put the Bearcats up for the first time, 43-42.
Archbishop Murphy tied the score three times after that, but never again led.
W.F. West broke the game open for good four about four minutes left.
With the score tied 48-48, Steen was fouled shooting a 3-pointer. She made her first two free throws, but when she missed the third, Erika Brumfield, who totaled 16 points, grabbed the rebound and scored on a follow shot.
Brumfield then scored over a Wildcat defender and hit another jumper when Steen missed a 3-point shot, got her own rebound and fed the junior post, who scored to make it 56-48.
“Julia and Kiara are two seniors who have done this for a long time now and they did it one more time,” said Kelly, who was doing something one more time himself. This is his second 2A state championship, having coached River Ridge to the 2010 crown.
“It’s almost exactly the same,” Kelly said. “Except I didn’t have a granddaughter on the team so this is double special.”
Archbishop Murphy1816810 - 52
WF West8161921- 64
ATM – Riojas 2, Hill 11, Dorney 2, J. Lucas 8, Rodabaugh 19, Campbell, Jurdana, I, Lucas, Rojas, Hayward 4, Graham 6.
WFW – Vadala 2, Johnson 18, Bennett 2, Brumfield 16, Steen 14, Akins 5, Tornow, Waring 4, McCallum 3.