By Steve Powell
TACOMA – Joe Marsh’s Arlington girls basketball team’s goal was to win the state championship.
It fell just short by placing third, beating No. 1 seeded Eastside Catholic 61-57 last Saturday in the 3A Hardwood Classic at the Tacoma Dome.
“It takes the sting out of it,” Marsh said, referring to the loss the night before to eventual champion Garfield. “And beating the top team was a bonus.”
For most of the game Arlington freshman standout Jenna Villa was quiet. But she scored 7 points in the final 1:43 to spark the win.
“She didn’t hesitate,” Marsh said of a 3-pointer Villa made to clinch the win. “She hit a big shot on the big stage. She’s hit big shots all year for us.”
Hitting big shots all game was junior Hailey Hiatt, who led the Eagles with 24 points. “They kept giving her open looks, and she kept knocking them down,” her coach said.
Another junior, Makenzie Gage, played tough inside against taller opponents. “She’s undersized but plays with a lot of fight and heart,” Marsh said.
While Villa stood out at the end, it took an entire team effort to get them to that position as Marsh played everyone despite the close contest, and all contributed and gained state experience.
It took a fourth-quarter comeback to get the win. After the Crusaders scored on a putback shot to take a 52-43 lead, Arlington rallied.
Josie Stupey and Sierra Scheppele each hit 3’s, Gage scored after grabbing an offensive rebound then passed to Stupey off the fastbreak to cut the lead to 54-53. Villa hit two free throws and the 3 as Arlington went ahead 58-56 with 40 seconds left.
After a Crusader made a free throw, Marsh called a timeout. The strategy worked as she missed the second foul shot. Stupey hit a free throw and Villa two more for the final score.
While others stood out at the end, the 3-point shooting of Hiatt and all-around play of Keira Marsh kept them in the game.
After falling behind 8-3 in the first period, Hiatt hit two 3’s, and Marsh scored off a drive and fastbreak. After Hiatt blocked a shot, Gage came up with it and assisted on the fastbreak to Marsh to give Arlington a 15-13 lead after one. In the second quarter, Allison DeBerry hit a wide open Hannah Rork inside for two as the Eagles led 22-20. But then the Crusaders went on an 11-1 run to take its biggest lead of the half at 31-23.
Gage scored twice inside, and Hiatt hit a jumper to cut the margin to 33-30 at halftime.
Both teams started the second half cold until Gage assisted on a bucket by Hiatt, who then hit a 3 as the Eagles took back the lead.
Hiatt made three free throws then stole the ball and assisted to Marsh on the fastbreak. Eastside Catholic went on a 5-0 run before Hiatt hit a 3 just before the end of the third quarter, which ended with the Crusaders in front 45-43, setting up the close ending.
Hiatt made 8 of 15 shots, 5 of 11 from 3-point land. Marsh added 11 points with 6 rebounds. Gage had 9 with 5 rebounds, while Villa had 8 points. Arlington made six more 3-pointers, a big difference in the game as it was outrebounded 43-30.
The Eagles, led by Gage, held Crusader star Zaza Walton to 6 points. She had averaged more than 20 points in her first two games at state.
Shifty guard Malla Samuels led the losers with 19, and long-distance specialist Isabel Sullivan added 15, while Makena Daggett had 11 points and 13 boards.
Arlington ended the season 23-3, while the Crusaders went 26-3.
Marsh returns most of his players next year, but he was happy for teary-eyed seniors Deberry and Scheppele, who has been injured but got to start her last game.
In the past eight years, Marsh’s teams have won trophies for second, third and fourth place twice. The big one – maybe next year?
“It’s really hard to win a state championship. The tournament’s brutal mentally and physically. But this experience will make all the difference in the world,” he said.
“It was our goal to win the state championship. We came up a little short. But we’re going to turn around and do it again next year.”
Last Friday night, the Eagles lost to No. 9 Garfield 53-36 to drop into the consolation bracket.
Arlington just couldn’t hit its shots like it normally does. Stupey led the way with 9 points.
The Eagles were 12 of 43 for the game for 28 percent. They were only 4 of 22 from 3-point territory for 18%.
They also were outrebounded 45-29. Turnovers were an issue for both teams with Garfield having 22 and Arlington 21.
Garfield led 34-24 at halftime, but the Eagles tallied just 12 second-half points.
Marsh said the Eagles had a tough time matching up against Garfield, which was big, athletic, strong and physical.
Last Thursday night, Hiatt hit a fadeaway jumper with 6.1 seconds left to spark the Eagles to a 50-49 win over Shorecrest.
Marsh drew up the play after the Eagles fell behind by one with 11.1 seconds left. Hiatt finished with a game-high 17 points, making 6 of 10 shots. Gage added 15, Villa 8 and Kiera Marsh 7.
The Scots led for much of the contest, opening the game with an 11-4 run on the way to a 15-9 first-quarter. Arlington closed the gap by halftime to 27-25. After both teams scored 11 in the third, the Eagles took the fourth quarter 14-11 for the narrow victory.
Arlington shot just 14 of 42 from the field for 33% and 4 of 18 from beyond the arc for 22%, but the Eagles were able get points at the foul line as they knocked down 18 of 23 attempts, or 78%. Arlington’s free-throw shooting helped spark a 10-0 second-quarter run that gave the Eagles their first lead of the game, knocking down 8 of 9 during that stretch.
Early in the year Arlington lost at Shorecrest 58-43, but later beat the Scots 50-34.
Maddy Grandbois of Marysville Getchell High School has been selected to play in the Baden/Cloud 9 Sports WSGBCA All State Game at King’s High School in Shoreline March 21. She is one of 10 seniors chosen to play in the annual game.