Top-ranked Bullpups of Spokane (27-0) took home the title for a second straight year. The Vikings went from sixth place in 2013 to fourth last season to second.
ACOMA — Deja Strother’s eyes sparkled as she looked toward the championship court at the Tacoma Dome.
“We’re ready,” she said.
The 6-foot-4 senior had waited two years for this moment — the opportunity to lead Inglemoor High School to its first Class 4A state girls basketball championship.
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Strother and her teammates nearly made the most of it, but fell just short Saturday night as top-ranked Gonzaga Prep of Spokane (27-0) took home the title for a second straight year with a 57-52 victory in double overtime.
Afterward, Strother sat next to Alex Hagen, tears streaming down their checks. The two had been though an incredible climb together, bringing the Vikings from sixth place in 2013 to fourth last season to second.
And lifting them from 14 points down against a Gonzaga Prep team ranked as high as No. 18 nationally.
But to be so close to first place made it all that much more agonizing.
“It hurts,” said Hagen, who scored 14 of her 16 points after halftime to help spark Inglemoor’s rally.
Strother finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and two blocks to land on the all-tournament team. She said the Vikings’ comeback was fueled by desire.
“We really wanted it,” she said.
They nearly got it, too. The second-ranked Vikings (25-2) led 45-43 on a basket by Kennedy Nicholas with 2:11 to play in regulation. But they couldn’t get the game-winner after Laura Stockton played the role of hero again.
Stockton, the tournament MVP who carried the Bullpups into the title game with a late three-pointer in the semifinals, nailed a jumper just inside the free-throw line Saturday to tie it at 45 with 37.4 seconds to play in regulation. The Vikings missed three tries from there.
Strother, a McDonald’s All-American who has signed with Washington, gave Inglemoor a 49-47 advantage in the first overtime on a three-point play with 32.2 seconds to go. But Stockton — who finished with 13 points, nine steals and six assists — fed Otiona Gildon for the tying basket moments later to force the second OT.
Gonzaga Prep got the early advantage there, but a three-pointer by Hagen cut it to 53-52 with 1:36 to play. Those were the last points of the season for Inglemoor, which had won 18 games in a row.
Vikings coach John Augustavo said he was proud of his team, but added, “We had some good opportunities in the end and let it slip away.”
Gonzaga coach Mike Arte said his Bullpups had a bit of luck two nights in a row and added, “It’s just the way a championship game is supposed to be.”
He praised Inglemoor — “They battled us like anything,” Arte said — as did Stockton, daughter of former NBA great John Stockton, currently an assistant coach.
“They really pushed us and the win felt that much better knowing that it was against such a good team,” she said.
Her nine steals gave her 15 in the tournament, a record.
The 6-foot Gildon, an Oregon recruit, finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds and was a first-team all-tournament choice.
The Bullpups ran their win streak to 50. They are the first team to sweep back-to-back 4A crowns since another Spokane team, Lewis and Clark, completed a three-peat from 2006-08. The Tigers are the only 4A school to sweep three straight.