YAKIMA - The deficit was simply too much, and the comeback too late for the River Ridge Hawks.
After entering the Class 2A girls basketball state tournament with visions of defending their title, the Hawks must suddenly revise their lofty goals after Burlington-Edison handed them a 56-49 loss in the semifinals Friday night at the Yakima SunDome.
River Ridge (23-4) will play a familiar opponent – Evergreen Conference rival Chehalis – at 1 p.m. Saturday in the third/fifth-place game.
“They’ll be ready,” River Ridge coach Tom Kelly said. “We’ll be fighting for it.”
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Hawks senior Jasmine McDonald scored a game-high 22 points, with 12 of those coming from the free-throw line. Jennifer Cole had 17 points as she and McDonald combined for 39 of the team’s 49 points. The Hawks finished with 20 points from the free-throw line.
River Ridge fell behind 10-0 and trailed by as many as 17 points twice, but the Hawks staged a fourth-quarter comeback.
“I wasn’t going to let them quit,” Kelley said.
Kelsey Russell hit a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter, and it ignited River Ridge’s offense. After scoring 27 points in the first three quarters, the Hawks scored 22 in the fourth.
Burlington-Edison matched its largest lead by going up 47-30 with 4 minutes, 44 seconds remaining and still led 51-36 with 1:55 to play.
The Hawks then went on an 11-0 run, with six points coming on free throws by McDonald, to cut the deficit to 51-47 with 1:01 left. Jennifer Cole had a pair of buckets during the run, adding a free throw to one of them for an old-fashioned three-point play.
But the Tigers made five free throws in the final 41.6 seconds to seal their victory.
“We hit some shots, and I think it gave us some confidence,” Burlington-Edison coach Mike Buckholz said. “That was our best game of the year.”
Burlington-Edison held the Hawks to 26 percent shooting (13 of 50). Much of the credit can be given to the Tigers’ 1-2-2 zone defense, something they used specifically against a much-quicker Hawks team.
River Ridge finished 3-for-29 from 3-point range.
Burlington-Edison jumped out to a double-digit lead early, thanks in part to five 3-pointers in the first half – including Molly Breckenridge’s 3 just before the halftime buzzer to give the Tigers a 29-16 advantage.
Kristine Thoe finished with 17 points for the Tigers. Breckenridge and Cambie Edwards had 11 points apiece.
A 3-pointer by Thoe gave the Tigers their largest lead at 38-21 with 4:43 left in the third quarter.
These same teams met in last year’s semifinal. The Hawks beat the Tigers, 47-43, and went on to beat Prosser, 57-46, for the state title.
“This is amazing,” Breckenridge said. “We’ve been waiting for this for so long.”