Mandy Steward sparked a 17-0 run as the No. 5 Wolverines advanced to the state tournament with a win over the top-ranked Falcons.
TACOMA — Trailing by 10 points with less than six minutes to play and struggling to solve a tenacious full-court press, the Bellevue girls basketball team turned the ball over to Sure Hand Steward.
Sophomore Mandy Steward used her dribbling skills to find cracks in a trapping defense and help the Wolverines rally for a 58-51 regional win over Prairie, the defending Class 3A state champion, Friday night at Mount Tahoma High School.
The win puts fifth-ranked Bellevue (24-2) into the state tournament for the first time since 2008. Top-ranked Prairie of Brush Prairie finished 21-4.
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Steward, playing with four fouls in the fourth quarter, was one of several heroes for the Wolverines, who looked rattled early. Prairie harassed Bellevue into 18 first-half turnovers and 10 backcourt giveaways for the game.
“Their press gave us fits all game, and after three quarters we finally started to not play scared of it, play a little bit more under control,” said Bellevue coach Leah Krautter. “That gave us more confidence.”
Steward sank a three, a deuce and all seven free throws she attempted in the fourth quarter, when the Wolverines rallied from a 47-37 deficit with a 17-0 run over four minutes.
“She kind of decides when she wants to take over,” Krautter said, “and a lot of times it’s at the end of games.
“We didn’t have her up on the press at the beginning because we usually like to pass through it, but we finally said, let’s just have her dribble through it, and it worked.”
Steward, who finished with 20 points, concurred.
“They didn’t want me dribbling at the beginning, but I knew I could break it myself,” she said. “I’ve been doing that since I was little, being able to dribble through girls.”
Freshman Shelby Cansler (14 points) was a force for Bellevue in the third quarter, blocking three shots and making two steals in dazzling three-minute span. Tatiana Streun, forced to handle post duties with teammate Mackenzie Keeter sidelined by mono, had 16 points and 16 rebounds.
Megan Lindsley and Cory Woodward, Prairie’s two returning starters from last year, had 17 and 16 points, respectively.
Wilson 56, Bonney Lake 26
Bethany Montgomery scored 19 to lead the third-ranked Rams of Tacoma (21-2) to the win and a state-tournament berth. Mekenzie Voellger led the Panthers (15-11) with 15 points.