Jayla Russ had 23 points and six rebounds as the Eagles outlasted WesCo 4A rival Lake Stevens 66-64.
TACOMA — Jayla Russ is a typically shy freshman off the basketball court.
On the court, it’s a different story.
Russ is constantly in attack mode, and that’s a big reason why the Arlington High School girls basketball team is on the cusp of its first state title since 1982.
Russ, thrust into action when senior Veronica Ladines broke her finger in practice after the start of the district tournament, broke loose for 23 points and six rebounds as the Eagles outlasted WesCo rival Lake Stevens 66-64 in overtime in the Class 4A state semifinals Friday night at the Tacoma Dome.
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Sixth-ranked Arlington (22-4) plays No. 2 Mead (24-1) of Spokane for the title at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The aggressiveness of Russ and her team’s resilience allowed the Eagles to reach their first title game since winning the 3A crown in 1982. Russ tallied 12 points in the second half and overtime. She finished 7 of 10 from the floor hit 8 of 10 free throws.
“I don’t get nervous, but I just go out and play my game,” Russ said. “I really wanted to do this for the seniors, because they wanted to do it for so long. I knew I could play up with (varsity). I felt like I wanted to push myself for the seniors to get what they wanted.
“I would never think we’d be here, though. I’m just shaking.”
The 6-foot Russ and Lindsay Brown, who had 14 points and 12 rebounds, helped Arlington rally from a 12-point deficit early in the third quarter in the semifinal showdown of top two finishers in the WesCo North Division.
The Eagles survived a game-tying three-pointer from Lake Stevens’ Brittney Pahukoa as time expired in regulation, and outscored the ninth-ranked Vikings (20-8) in overtime. Pahukoa fouled out on a scramble play just 57 seconds into OT.
“After she hit it, I was everywhere,” Russ said. “I pulled myself together, and I was just ready to play.”
When Arlington coach Joe Marsh pulled his team over to start the overtime, he delivered a strong, demonstrative message. It rang clear.
“My thought was, ‘We’re not done,’ ” Marsh said. “In that third quarter, I thought we did a great job and I thought we were in control of that game. We’d been doing all these good things, so I thought ‘Let’s go win this thing.’ This team never gives up and they just refuse to say they’re done.
“This team fights.”
That never-give-up attitude carried the Eagles, but Marsh never expected this kind of run.
“At the beginning of the year, we laid down our goals, and I said, I’m going to write ‘State’ on the board, even though we’re not ready for it yet, but we’ll come to it eventually,” he said. “I’m so excited for the community. I’m just in shock.
“Our basketball has just gone up and up and up.”
Pahukoa’s sister, Brooke, led Lake Stevens with 28 points and 14 rebounds.
It was the Eagles’ second win in three meetings between the schools this season.