TACOMA – A bloodied jersey nearly cost the Rams.
With one play to determine its fate, there was no way Mount Rainier was going to be without Stanford-bound Brittany McPhee. So her coach, Bob Bolam, called two timeouts to ensure McPhee could change out of her bloodied jersey No. 12 and into No. 44.
McPhee, who struggled for three quarters, stayed in and delivered the game-winning jumper in the lane with 15.3 seconds left as fourth-ranked Mount Rainier escaped with a 56-55 win over ninth-ranked Moses Lake on Saturday in the Class 4A girls state semifinals at the Tacoma Dome.
“Our trainer had gotten [the blood] all off, and then they were like, ‘Oh, no, there’s still some more right here,’ but there wasn’t,” she said. “I just like, ‘Whatever, I’m going to change the jersey then they can’t find any.’ I just went around the corner [to change].
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“It kind of made me mad. I was seriously, ‘You’re going to make me change my uniform?’ I was like, ‘Let’s get this over with.’ In the timeout, I said [losing in the semifinals] isn’t happening again.”
After losing the last two years by a total of three points in the semifinals, the Rams (25-3) finally reached the state-title game.
“It’s all the emotions building up,” said McPhee, who finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds, eight blocked shots and two assists despite being hounded with triple-teams all game. “There’s nothing like it. If I’m going to go down, I’m going to go down fighting.”
The Rams looked headed for a repeat of semifinal failure of the previous two seasons, falling 51-50 to Mead of Spokane last season and 42-40 to Central Valley of Spokane in 2012. Mount Rainier was down 45-32 with 2:35 left in the third quarter on Friday and still down by 10 with less than five minutes left.
McPhee changed into a clean No. 44 jersey for the last offensive sequence after Mount Rainier called two timeouts at the 17.9-second mark to allow McPhee time to change and stay in the game.
After the 6-foot McPhee gave the Rams a 56-55 lead by rising high to make an 8-footer, Moses Lake brought the ball upcourt and called time out with 5.7 seconds showing.
Sophomore Jessie Loera, who finished with 23 points, was isolated on the left side and got off a running right-hander with two seconds showing that bounced off to the right side of the rim and into Emily Olson’s hands, but Olson couldn’t get a shot off.
The Rams meet second-ranked Gonzaga Prep (24-1), led by point guard Laura Stockton, in the 4A championship game on Saturday at 5 p.m. McPhee’s father, Bryce, played with Stockton’s father, John, at Gonzaga University.
Moses Lake (20-5) takes on top-ranked Lynnwood (24-2) for third place on Saturday at 11:15 a.m.