The No. 1 Falcons allowed just nine points in the second half to deny Mount Spokane its first crown, winning 37-35.
TACOMA — Both teams had been building for this for four years.
Only one would get to hit their crescendo.
Thanks to two defensive stops in the final eight seconds and allowing just nine points second half, top-seeded Prairie can celebrate the hard work after a 37-35 victory over second-seeded Mount Spokane on Saturday afternoon in the Class 3A state championship at the Tacoma Dome.
Senior Brooke Walling, a Fresno State commit, supplied 17 points, six rebounds and three blocks and the Falcons (25-2) corralled its seventh state title and first since 2012.
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Nothing came easy for either team, but the defensive work and defensive rebounding was the difference for the Falcons.
“You have to play good and be good, but you also have to be a little lucky to win this thing again,” Prairie coach Hala Corral said. “It’s a game of runs. It is so hard to get here, and it is so hard to win. I told them if we don’t give them second-chance points like we did in the first half, we’ll be in it. I’m pretty sure we gave up less offensive rebounds in the second half.”
Neither team made a field goal in the final 4 minutes, 59 seconds. Walling’s right-hand hook in the lane with 4:59 left gave Prairie the lead back at 36-35 after Mount Spokane opened a seven-point lead. Cassidy Gardner scored the game’s only points in that final 4:59, sinking the front end of a 1-and-1 for a 37-35 lead with 27.4 seconds to go.
“Our defense and rebounds are really what gets us to win games,” said Gardner, a Portland State signee and team’s leading scorer (15.6 ppg), who had an off shooting day with 1-of-10 accuracy from the field.
The key for Prairie was hounding the Wildcats’ leading scorer Aspyn Adams all afternoon, limiting her to just five points, almost nine points under her season average. Adams got limited open looks and probably her best one came with eight seconds left, but her three-pointer from the left side rimmed long and 5-foot-4 junior Allison Corral, rebounded and passed to senior Cassidy Gardner.
“We had a big (rebound) right at the end by the smallest player on the grabbed it and secured it,” Hala Corral said. “She was screaming the whole game, ‘This is our game, we’re going to win it.’ ”
After a Mount Spokane foul, Gardner missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw. Adams’ sister, Averi, took a pass after Emily Nelson and burst upcourt, heaving a running 27-footer long off the backboard as time expired.
That left Mount Spokane second-guessing and the Falcons flying high. The Wildcats had just nine points on four field goals in the second half.
“That was uncharacteristic of our team,” Mount Spokane coach David Pratt said of his team’s 25-percent shooting. “I felt like we had good looks, too, open, clean, good looks. The ball didn’t go into the hole for us today. It’s super disappointing, because our kids worked so hard.”
Jayda Noble, a 5-foot-11 wing who has verbally committed to the University of Washington, provided the Wildcats with the biggest spark. Noble, a transfer from Medical Lake, piled up 20 rebounds to go with 12 points, three assists, one block and one steal.
The Wildcats were bidding for the school’s first title in the sport and to become the first Class 3A girls champion from the Spokane area since West Valley of Spokane won it in 1997.