There was no golden ball to go after, but there was still a golden opportunity to prove something.

When the pandemic kept pushing back the prospects of a 2021 season of girls basketball, finally a shortened season was the only option.

For senior Tamia Stricklin and the Seattle Prep girls basketball team that meant keeping local pride in lieu of a long-dreamed-of state championship trophy.

Stricklin, a 6-foot Fresno State University commit, stepped up to lead the Panthers to their first Metro League title in girls hoop in 20 years by pouring in 29 points in a 54-48 victory over Bishop Blanchet in Friday’s league championship game at Seattle Pacific University.

Stricklin did almost everything for the Panthers (13-0 overall, 10-0 league), running the point on offense and manning the inside on defense. The four-year starter took on more responsibility in three Metro League tournament wins in the absence of frontcourt running mate, Molly Moffitt, who left last Friday to join Ireland’s U-20 national team.

“I got to play with amazing girls and I just had an amazing experience [as a senior],” said Stricklin, who averaged 29 points per game in three Metro tourney contests. “I was so worried that we weren’t going to play at all. There was talk that we were going to play in November and then it kept getting pushed back.

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“It’s been a weird year playing and this summer is weird, but I’m just so thankful that we got to play and finish out like this.”

Junior teammate Gabby Stuart added 15 points, including nine points in the final 6:55 of the first half as Prep built its 15-point lead.

Bishop Blanchet senior Taliyah Clark, who is headed to Seattle University, tallied a team-high 23 points, including 14 in the second half. Clark’s two free throws with 3:44 left in the game got the Braves within 45-43 and then her driving layin closed the gap tp two points again at 47-45 with 3:09 left.

Seattle Prep, ranked No. 1 in the state rankings on MaxPreps.com, gets to hang a Metro title banner for the first time since 2001 by using a 6-0 run in the final 3:01 of the game. Stricklin scored two driving baskets and the Panthers’ lead grew to 53-45 with 1:30 remaining.

“That’s how a Metro championship should be,” Seattle Prep coach Brian Elsner said after his team dug out of a 15-4 first-quarter hole to lead by as many as 15 points before a late Bishop Blanchet run. “I think we had some young kids who had their first big moment and they made some big plays, but they were also tight at times and Blanchet is really, really good.

“[Blanchet] proved that over the course of the year. There was part of us that was just trying to survive.”

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Stricklin, who also had 14 rebounds, got a few moments to rest, but not much. Her team needed her leadership down the stretch and got it.

“Tamia just made plays for us when she needed to make plays,” Elsner said. “I just feel blessed to have coached her. She’s an awesome kid, she’s an incredible player and she wanted the ball in the big moments and she made the big plays. On offense, she knew she needed to get the ball and make a play for us and she did.”

The two teams opened the abbreviated COVID-postponed season on April 28 as Seattle Prep won handily 58-36 over the Braves, pulling away late with a 23-4 fourth-quarter advantage. The Braves finished 9-4 overall.

“They were well prepared for our press this time,” Elsner said.