TACOMA — The Garfield High School girls basketball team started with an ice-cold shooting touch.

Luckily, the Bulldogs drew some fouls and scored from the free-throw stripe. Then, they slowly warmed up.

Junior Malia Samuels tallied 15 points, five rebounds and five steals as Garfield overcame a slow start and blown late lead to survive Lake Washington 39-38 and post just the second unbeaten season in school history on Saturday night in the championship game of the Class 3A girls state basketball tournament at the Tacoma Dome.

The Bulldogs (21-0) prevailed in the rematch of the 2020 title contest for back-to-back state titles (no tournament last year because of the pandemic) despite shooting 25% from the floor. It turned into a thriller late as Lake Washington took a 38-33 lead Jolie Sim’s three-pointer with 3 minutes, 4 seconds left in the game.

But the Bulldogs kept the defensive pressure on and scored the final six points of the game with junior Imbie Jones providing the game-winning basket on a drive and shot off glass with 1:10 remaining. Jones finished with 12 points and eight rebounds as Garfield blew a 33-24 late third quarter lead.

“This team (being a young team) being undefeated, you still don’t know what to expect,” said Garfield coach Marvin Hall, whose was overcome with emotion and began crying when his team held on. “I almost passed out on that last (Lake Washington) shot. I was terrified.”

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Lake Washington had one last shot to knock off the Bulldogs, but Rae Butler Wu’s three-pointer from the right side just before the final buzzer was long and off the top of the backboard. Butler Wu finished with a game-high 16 points and sank four three-pointers.

Hall said Jones has stepped up since regionals and hitting the game-winner was only icing on the cake.

“MVP, MVP,” said Hall, who dedicated this season to his late father, Willie C. Hall, who passed away a year ago due to complications of COVID. “Imbie has really stepped up her game these playoffs. I’m so proud of her.”

With the 2021 state tournament scrapped because of COVID, these two teams met in the last Class 3A title game in 2020 with Garfield coming out on top 55-41.

Lake Washington (21-5), was bidding for its first state crown in school history. The Kangaroos, which had its two star players in foul trouble all night, now have finished second three times a state, to go with runner-up finishes in 2020 in 3A and 1999 in 4A.

The Kangs used an 11-0 run to their lead to 38-33. But pressure defense and Jones’ aggressive drive for the winner got Garfield to the finish line in front.

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“Early in the game, I went in there and it didn’t turn out how I wanted,” Jones said. “I just knew the clock was running down late, we were down and I just had to get a bucket. I got it off the glass and it went in.”

The 2021-2022 Garfield team made history and joined the legendary 1980 Bulldogs’ girls team that went undefeated at 24-0 behind the high-scoring local legend Joyce Walker.

Garfield, which has three freshmen and three sophomores, survived 1-of-17 shooting to start the game to take a 26-22 lead into halftime, thanks to 10-of-15 accuracy from the free-throw line before the break.

Samuels led the Bulldogs (8 of 33 from the field) with 10 points at intermission, helped by 6-of-6 shooting from the foul line.

The Kangaroos were without both of their star players — rim protector Elise Hani (three fouls) and point guard Rosa Smith (two fouls) — for much of the first half. Hani exited the game with 7:09 to go before halftime and Smith went out with 5:07 showing and both didn’t return until the second half.

Smith didn’t start the second half, but Hani did and quickly she picked up her fourth foul and headed to sit on the bench with 6:56 left in the third quarter. Smith finally re-entered the game in the second half with 3:54 showing on the clock in the third quarter.

Garfield had just three players back from the 2020 title team in Navaeh Talbert, Lucille Richardson and Saniya Rahman.