TACOMA – There is no doubting the desire.
Now, can Mount Rainier finally deliver?
The fourth-ranked Rams are back in the semifinals of the Class 4A state basketball tournament for the third year in a row after a 64-57 victory over No. 3 Inglemoor Thursday at the Tacoma Dome.
They are determined to take the next step.
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“We want it,” senior Jordan McPhee said.
The Rams (24-3) have fallen short of the championship game the past two years by a total of three points. This time, No. 9 Moses Lake (21-4) stands in the way Friday at 5:30 p.m.
“We’ve been dreaming about this since last year,” McPhee said. “We’ve been preparing all year, and it’s good to finally be here.”
They won’t take anything for granted.
“We definitely know how hard we have to work to get past the semifinals,” twin Brittany McPhee said.
And getting past Inglemoor was no easy chore either – even though the Vikings (21-4) were sluggish early on. They cut a 19-point, fourth-quarter deficit to six in the final 18 seconds.
“We ran out of daylight,” Inglemoor coach John Augustavo said.
De’ja Strother, the Vikings’ 6-foot-4 junior post who has committed to Washington, scored 12 of her game-high 24 points in the final quarter after Mount Rainier contained her for much of the game. She added 18 rebounds.
“Obviously, in the fourth quarter we couldn’t stop her,” Mount Rainier coach Bob Bolam said. “That was tough. We were saying, ‘Use the clock, use the clock.’ Thank God we had enough points to use the clock.”
Stanford-bound Brittany McPhee scored nine of her 19 points in the first quarter as the Rams opened up a 20-11 lead, but it was their balance that helped them avenge an 68-53 loss to the same team. Aqueelah Williams hit three first-half three-pointers and finished with 15 points, Emily Fiso chipped in 13 and Jordan McPhee had 12.
“If we’re going to win it we need everybody playing well, and I thought today we had that,” Bolam said.
Mackenzie Gardner was the only other Inglemoor player in double figures with 14.
“I don’t want to take anything away from my kids, but (the Rams) just seemed to play a little bit harder,” Augustavo said.
Inglemoor, which also lost to Mount Rainier in last year’s quarterfinals, plays No. 8 Arlington (20-5) in a loser-out game Friday at 10:30 a.m.
The Rams have now won 12 straight since the January loss to Inglemoor, and Brittany McPhee said their three defeats have all been valuable.
“The losses made us close together as a team,” she said. “We knew we were going to have to work together and use each other, not just try to go one on one. Those losses made us re-evaluate each other and say, ‘Hey, we’re in this together.’ ”
Moses Lake 46, Arlington 28
When they needed to, the Eagles simply couldn’t find the basket.
“Oh, my goodness,” Arlington coach Joe Marsh said. “Here’s what I’ll say. Tonight was one of the few times this season where I think our youth showed.”
Arlington got off to a nice start, actually.
Gracie Castaneda’s basket with 3:35 left in the second quarter gave the Eagles a 15-12 lead. It took Arlington 8:33 of game time, until the 3:02 mark of the third quarter, before it scored again.
By then, the Chiefs had taken a 24-18 lead they would never relinquish. Overall, Arlington ended up shooting just 23 percent from the field, making only 10 of 44 shots. While Moses Lake made only 31 percent from the floor (15 of 48), the Chiefs were 15 of 20 from the free-throw line.
“You’re not going to win a game at state shooting those percentages,” Marsh said. “Or scoring 28 points.”
Sophomore Jayla Russ scored a team-high nine points with seven of those coming in the opening quarter. She had a scary moment late in the third quarter when she injured her knee slamming into the base of the basket support and had to be helped from the court. But she was able to return in the fourth.
Emily Olson led the Chiefs with 17 points and nine rebounds. The Eagles were out-rebounded 44-30.
Correspondent Doug Drowley
contributed to this report.