TACOMA – Even before the game was delayed more than 40 minutes, Bellevue coach Chris O’Connor had resolved himself over his team’s WIAA 3A Regional experience on Friday night.
“It took us an hour and a half to get here. Then when we did, we got lost,” O’Connor said. “We knew it was just going to be one of those nights.”
His No. 4 Wolverines never got fazed by any of the strange happenings on the way to or once they arrived at Mount Tahoma High, though. Instead, Bellevue steadily advanced to Thursday’s state quarterfinals at the Tacoma Dome with a 60-55 victory over No. 2 Lincoln.
“The thing is, our kids just love to play basketball,” O’Connor said.
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Even a random fire alarm, which went off in the gymnasium with 2:50 to play in the first quarter, couldn’t shake these Wolverines. The Tacoma fire department finally arrived, then required the near-full gymnasium to be cleared for safety reasons before the game could resume.
That process, plus a 4-minute warmup period for the teams, caused a total delay of 43 minutes. Once the delay ended, the game began again with Bellevue holding just a 7-6 lead.
The contest stayed tight through the rest of the first half, and it was tied at 28 at the half. Still, Bellevue found an advantage and began to exploit it when the third quarter started.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get a gauge on a team until you start playing them,” O’Connor said. “We didn’t intend to pound it inside like we did. But after we started, we could see we were just so much bigger.”
Senior big man Jack Walton was the primary beneficiary. Walton finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds.
But more, when the ball went into him deep and the Abes (22-4) collapsed defensively, Walton was able to kick it back out for open jumpers.
“Realizing our size advantage, we knew we had an advantage,” Walton said. “We knew we could work it inside-out.”
The strategy worked as Bellevue (22-3) built a 44-36 lead going into the fourth quarter. Lincoln got as close as four, when with 40 seconds to play Trevion Brown hit his third three-pointer of the game to cut the Abes deficit to 56-52.
But the Wolverines made 4 of 6 free throws down the stretch, part of an overall 16-for-19 (84 percent) performance from the line that earned Bellevue its first trip back to the Dome since losing to Lakes in the championship game two years ago.
“To be honest with you, sometimes we aren’t so good on the line,” O’Connor said. “I think we’re around 65 percent as a team. So that was a nice change.”
Just one more anomaly on a night full of them for Bellevue.
Lincoln 61, Mountlake Terrace 59
The Hawks were 16 minutes away from their first trip to the state tournament in more than three decades.
A terribly slow start in the third quarter undid that dream for Mountlake Terrace (18-6), No. 8 in the 3A girls rankings. The Abes (20-5) opened the second half with a 12-2 run, then made 4 of 6 free throws in the final 18 seconds to hold on and advance to the Tacoma Dome next Thursday.
Mountlake Terrace, which last made the state girls tournament during the 1979-80 season, led it 28-26 at the half. But with 3:19 to play, the Hawks still trailed it by eight, 50-42.
But Nikkie Froehlich scored eight of her 11 points in the final 3:34 for the Hawks, who closed to within one point twice in the final 13 seconds. Samantha Romanowski made two free throws at that point to get Terrace close at 58-57.
After two Lincoln free throws by Aamira Turner, Romanowski sank two more with 3 seconds left. Kayla McLean then made one of two for the Abes, and a desperation 3-point heave at the buzzer from Maddy Kristjanson for the Hawks hit the corner of the rim.