TACOMA — Already assured of playing for their best finish at a state tournament in 20 years, the Lake Washington Kangaroos girls basketball team did itself one better on Friday night.
The No. 6 Kangaroos pulled off their second consecutive upset at the Class 3A state tournament, this time dispatching top-ranked Eastside Catholic 62-49 at the Tacoma Dome.
The victory propels Lake Washington into the state championship game against Garfield at 9 p.m. on Saturday.
“They call it ‘March Madness’ for a reason,” Lake Washington coach Jeff Wilson said. “When you get hot, you get hot.”
The loss was the first in Washington this season for the Crusaders (28-2), who will play for third or fifth place at 1 p.m.
For Lake Washington (22-6), Saturday will mark only the second time in school history the girls have played for a title. The Kangaroos lost the Class 4A championship game to Prairie 51-41 in 1999.
A year later, Lake Washington finished fourth in its return to the Class 3A ranks. The Kangaroos haven’t placed at state since, and have made just one appearance at the Dome in the last 20 years — in 2014.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Lake Washington junior Sophia Liesse said. “We hadn’t been here before. It’s unbelievable.”
Liesse did a little bit of everything for Lake Washington. But it was her scoring that dominated the stat line.
The Crusaders got off to a start that might be expected of the No. 1 team in the state, whose only loss was against Windward of Los Angeles in the first round of the Nike Tournament of Champions back in December. Eastside Catholic rolled off the first eight points to grab the early momentum.
The Kangaroos had the answer.
Ellie Pederson made a three-pointer with 4 minutes, 57 seconds left in the first quarter to get Lake Washington on the board. Two minutes later, Liesse’s second basket culminated a 13-2 run that put the Kangs on top 13-10 with 2:56 to go in the quarter.
“Sophia is our full team player,” Wilson said. “She is our only player with more than 100 points, 100 rebounds, 100 assists, 100 steals. Our first season, two years ago, when we were 2-18 she was our leader on that team, too.”
The Kangaroos built a 25-17 lead after one quarter and led 38-32 at the half. Lake Washington scored the first two baskets of the third quarter to extend the margin to 42-32 on two Liesse free throws with 4:30 left.
The Crusaders ripped off the next eight points, and only two missed free throws with 1:51 left in the third kept the game from being tied again.
Lake Washington responded with the final four points to get the lead back to six entering the fourth, 46-40.
“The kids never had panicked even once in the last three games,” Wilson said. “Their composure has been unbelievable.”
Lake Washington outscored Eastside Catholic 12-2 over the first 5:20 of the fourth quarter to put it away. Liesse, who scored 10 in the first, poured in 10 more during the decisive final stretch and finished with a game-high 22 points. Zaza Walton led the Crusaders with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
“We just came in confident,” said sophomore guard Rosa Smith, who scored 13 for the Kangs and can’t wait to play for a title.
“Oh yeah,” Smith said. “The momentum from this one (and a quarterfinal win over No. 4 Mt. Spokane), coming off two big upsets. We’re so looking forward to it.”
Garfield 53, Arlington 36
The No. 9 Bulldogs (22-7) built a 10-point lead at the half 34-24 and advanced to its second title game in the past three seasons. Garfield lost the championship to Gig Harbor 51-48 in 2018.
The Bulldogs last won a title in 2005, beating Snohomish in overtime, 63-58, to capture the Class 4A crown for coach Joyce Walker.
The No. 3 Eagles (23-3) were led by Josie Stupey’s nine points, but this one was never close in the second half. Garfield got a game-high 17 points from Meghan Fiso.