TACOMA — Dalayah Daniels saved her best for last.
The Garfield senior, a McDonald’s All-American who will take her talents to Cal next fall, showed up in a big way for the Bulldogs on Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome.
Having struggled over the first three days of the Class 3A state girls basketball tournament, Daniels came up big in the championship game as No. 9 Garfield won its first girls title in 15 years, 55-41 over the upstart Lake Washington Kangaroos.
“I’m just so glad for my team,” said Daniels, who battled an ankle injury all season. “They deserve this. I am happy to bring them back a ring.”
The victory for Garfield made it a Class 3A sweep for the Bulldogs this season. The girls followed the Garfield boys on Saturday night, who beat O’Dea for the title.
The Bulldogs, who were hampered by injuries all year, handed Lake Washington a four-point loss during the SeaKing District tournament two weeks ago. That script played out again on Saturday when the Bulldogs pulled away in the second half to win the program’s first title since it beat Snohomish for the Class 4A championship in 2005.
Garfield lost the Class 3A title game two years ago to Gig Harbor, a loss that denied the Bulldogs a state title sweep. Saturday was the first Class 3A championship for the Garfield girls. They won three titles in 4A — in 1980, 1987 and 2005.
“It’s just really emotional,” Garfield coach Marvin Hall said, wiping away tears. “I know how hard these girls fought. So many people counted them out.”
Lake Washington was making just its second trip to the title game. They lost the 1999 championship to Prairie. A year later, Lake Washington came back to state and finished fourth. Saturday’s runner-up finish was the first time the Kangaroos have earned a state trophy since that 1999-2000 season.
This year’s trip to state was just the second time since that year that Lake Washington even has advanced to the Dome. The other was in 2014.
“Nobody thought we would be here,” Lake Washington coach Jeff Wilson said. “We will build off it. We are excited about next year.”
Much like they had during upsets over No. 4 Mt. Spokane in the quarterfinals and No. 1 Eastside Catholic in the semis, No. 6 Lake Washington methodically kept the championship close through the first half. Garfield led the game by three, 23-20, at the half.
Unlike the Kangaroos previous two opponents, Garfield did not wilt in the second half.
Garfield opened the third quarter with a decisive 12-2 run as the lead ballooned to 13 points at 35-22. A Kira Wood three-pointer with 2:37 to go extended the margin to 40-26 and Daniels second three-pointer of the night with 1:30 in the quarter pushed the lead to 43-28.
Daniels scored 12 of her game-high 18 points during the closeout run.
“What better time for her to show up?” Hall said. “She forgot about her ankle. I think she knew what was on the line and said, ‘I’m going to go out with a bang.’ This was like icing on the cake for her.”
Already leading 45-28 by the end of the third quarter, Garfield gave up a basket to Rosa Smith then ran off six more as the advantage crossed the 20-point barrier at 51-30. The Bulldogs cruised from there.
“Some of the shots we made these last few days didn’t fall,” Lake Washington coach Jeff Wilson said. “But we are so proud of them. Second place is an amazing accomplishment.”
Rosa Smith scored 17 points to pace the Kangaroos, who bring most of their core back next season.
“Mark my words: They will be back,” Daniels said.