TACOMA – Brittany McPhee left her mark at the Class 4A state girls basketball tournament Saturday.
But she would have rather left with the championship trophy.
McPhee became the tournament’s all-time career scoring leader with her 28-point effort in the title game. But she and her Mount Rainier teammates don’t have the championship trophy to go with it. That went to second-ranked Gonzaga Prep, which rallied from 12 points down in the second half for a 53-51 victory at the Tacoma dome.
“I’d trade it,” McPhee said of the record as a tear trickled down her cheek.
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The tournament MVP closed out a phenomenal prep career with 28 points, 19 rebounds and five blocked shots. She needed just 17 points to tie the record of 257 points set by Angie Bjorklund of University in 15 tournament games. McPhee, in her 11th state game, had 17 by half as the Rams led 34-27.
For a long while, it looked as though Mount Rainier would finally get that elusive gold ball.
Emily Fiso’s inside bucket gave the Rams a 43-31 lead with 4:34 left in the third. Then the offense sputtered as Prep went to a rare zone defense. And the Bullpups turned their offense over to 6-foot junior Otiona Gildon, who scored 14 of her 18 points the rest of the way.
“When you have a stud, go to the stud,” Gonzaga coach Mike Arte said.
Mount Rainier (25-4), playing in the championship game for the first time in school history, was up 49-44 on a McPhee basket with 5:58 to go, then didn’t score again until Jordan McPhee found Kaiti Freeberg alone under the basket for an easy two with 19 seconds left.
By that time, Gildon had scored 10 straight to give Gonzaga a lead and Freeberg’s basket trimmed it to 52-51. But the fourth-ranked Rams had just four fouls and didn’t get Prep to the line until just three seconds were left. Hannah Caudill, who was hot early with a trio of three-pointers, hit one of two and Jordan McPhee’s long runner at the buzzer was short.
Gildon added 15 rebounds and was an all-tournament first-team choice along with junior guard Laura Stockton, who supplied 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Gonzaga Prep (25-1), which knocked off top-ranked Lynnwood in Friday’s semifinals, won its first title and should make another run next year. The team’s lone loss this season came in early December against St. Mary’s Academy, an Oregon team.
The Bullpups were sizzling to start, nailing five of their first six shots and seven of their first 10 – including those three three-pointers by Caudill – as they raced to a 17-10 lead. But they cooled off considerably after that, making only five of 18 the rest of the half. They also missed all five free-throw tries.
Prep led 21-19 2½ minutes into the second quarter when Brittany McPhee keyed a 15-4 run with 10 points.
After Mount Rainier took its 12-point lead with 4½ minutes to go in the third, Prep got hot again, hitting four straight – the first two by Gildon. She then outscored the Rams 6-2 to start the fourth, pulling the Bullpups to within one (and missed a free throw that could have tied it).
Clearly, the momentum had shifted and in the end no one seemed to want to shoot the ball for Mount Rainier except McPhee, who had a couple of rare misses down the stretch.
“We were stuck on 49 for a long time,” Mount Rainier coach Bob Bolam said. “It was a tough struggle.”
McPhee said she never felt the victory was in hand.
“We expected them to fight back,” she said. “I play with them all the time in AAU. They don’t quit.”
Bolam said McPhee’s legacy shouldn’t be tarnished by the lack of a state championship.
“Right now, now you might say yes, because it’s heartbreaking,” he said. “You lose and you feel that pain of losing. But overall, no, she’s had a great career. You can’t ask for more of a kid.”
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