When the pressure has been at its highest, the Seattle Prep girls basketball team has been at its best.
The Panthers, who won four loser-out games to get to the Tacoma Dome, then won another one Wednesday over Lincoln of Tacoma, nearly pulled off a shocker Thursday at the Class 3A state girls basketball tournament.
Eastside Catholic (28-1), the top Class 3A seed whose only loss came to an out-of-state team, has rolled through opponent after opponent, but then came No. 10 Seattle Prep on Thursday and the Crusaders got tested.
But Eastside Catholic broke out of a tie game with three minutes left, hit some key free throws in the final minute and pulled out a 52-48 win, its closest margin of victory all season.
The biggest points of the game came when Metro League MVP Malia Samuels hit a pair of free throws with 29 seconds left to give Eastside Catholic a 50-46 lead. Zaza Walton led the Crusaders with 20 points and 17 rebounds.
Seattle Prep coach Brian Elsner was not surprised his team stepped up again.
“I think we’re a tough team and a gritty team and they love playing together,” Elsner said.
And the Panthers (21-9) seem impervious to pressure.
“They just want to have fun,” Elsner said. “There is real pressure in this world right now, and high school basketball is not where the real pressure is.”
Molly Moffit led the Panthers with 17 points.
Eastside Catholic advances to Friday’s semifinals against No. 6 Lake Washington. Seattle Prep plays No. 4 Mount Spokane in a loser-out game with the winner playing for 4th/6th place on Saturday.