Auburn Riverside High School captured its first Class 3A state girls basketball championship Saturday night at Ednumdson Pavilion, beating the top-ranked Seahawks, 56-46.
Stephanie Wilber erased the fear and found some fame.
Wilber won the showdown with imposing Regina Rogers of Chief Sealth, and Auburn Riverside High School captured its first Class 3A state girls basketball championship Saturday night at Ednumdson Pavilion, beating the top-ranked Seahawks, 56-46.
The 6-foot-3 Rogers has two inches and several pounds on Wilber, who remembers past summer skirmishes against her.
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“I was scared to death of the girl," Wilber said of the earlier meetings. "I had fear in my eyes like no other.
“This time I said, 'You know what, God? I'm David and she's Goliath. Let's go.' "
Wilber, who has signed with Arizona State, scored 12 of her game-high 16 points in the second half as the third-ranked Ravens (27-2) pulled away and was voted the tournament's most valuable player. Rogers, headed to UCLA along with teammate Christina Nzekwe, was in foul trouble for most of the game and finished with four points.
Sophomore Nichole Jackson played a big role for the second straight night, sinking four three-pointers en route to 15 points.
“She has the heart of a champion," Riverside coach Adam Barrett said.
Jackson was all smiles.
“It's amazing," she said after cutting down her part of the net. "I've never felt better in my life. I just feel like I won a million dollars."
Freshman Mercedes Wetmore had 10 points, while Ireti Amojo added in seven points and six rebounds.
The loss devastating for the Seahawks (25-4). The team from West Seattle was determined to win this tournament after the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association stripped the school of the 2005 and 2006 championships last July for recruiting violations by the previous coaching staff. Chief Sealth, forced to forfeit all games from the past four seasons, also had the third-place finish in 2004 revoked.
But the Seahawks, who had not previously lost to an in-state team this season and came into the game riding a 20-game win streak, couldn't overcome early foul trouble and Riverside's three-point shooting. As a team, the Ravens buried seven of them.
“Foul trouble and poor shooing, that's pretty much what it was," first-year coach Carman Martinez said. We'd catch up, then they'd hit a their threes and we'd be right back down. They're a great, great basketball team. Best team by far obviously that we've run across. They were the better team tonight."
The Ravens struggled with their touch early, missing seven straight shots at one point as Sealth slipped out to an 8-2 lead. But they finally warmed up and led 24-22 at the time, thanks in part to Jackson's third three-pointer. Katie Grad's running shot off the glass three seconds before the halftime buzzer gave them a 26-22 advantage
Nzekwe, who piled up 15 points and 15 rebounds, fueled a 6-0 run midway through the third quarter that gave the Seahawks a 30-29 lead. But Wilber hit an inside basket and followed with a three-pointer to give the Ravens a lead they never relinquished. A 12-4 spurt early in the fourth quarter put Riverside in front by nine, 47-38, and Sealth got no closer than seven the rest of the way.
Nia Jackson did her best to keep Sealth in it with 15 points, but the Seahawks came up short.
A teary-eyed Barrett was nearly speechless.
“Words can't really describe it," he said. "We knew we were going to have to go through the two-time defending champions. We just had a little bit more heart tonight.
Wilber was joined on the all-tournament first team by Sealth's Nzekwe and Rogers, Issaquah's Alyssa Shoji and Meadowdale's Eryn Jones.
Amojo of Riverside and Nia Jackson of Sealth were named to the second team along with Jasmine Williams of Seattle Prep, Chiome Amaefule of Auburn Mountainview and Jazmine Foreman of Hudson's Bay.
With Riverside's baseline-to-baseline, up-tempo play, Barrett said the key against Sealth would be "how much legs" his players had left after Friday's semifinal victory over Meadowdale of Lynnwood. They had enough, although Jackson's speed forced them to play more of a halfcourt game than they had all season.
Martinez was able to rest most of her starters in the lopsided semifinal win over West Valley of Yakima on Friday.
Auburn Riverside, which opened in the fall of 1995, was a Class 4A school last year and made its first state tournament appearance. The Ravens reached the semifinals before losing to eventual-champion Lewis and Clark of Spokane and wound up sixth. Riverside lost its leading scorer, Julie Futch (now at Oregon State), but returned the core of that team.
Like Sealth, Riverside started the season with an eye on the big prize. The Ravens got some unexpected help from Amojo, a junior who came to the school last fall as a German exchange student. They envisioned an unbeaten season, but a last-second loss to 4A Jackson of Mill Creek in December ended those hopes. Riverside then lost to a California team, Redondo Union, in mid-January.
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AUBURN RIVERSIDE — Mercedes Wetmore 4-8 1-4 10, Ireti Amojo 3-7 0-0 7, Katie Grad 1-3 3-5 5, Gina Hagerty 0-1 0-0 0, Kara Jenkins 0-0 0-0 0, Nichole Jackson 4-15 3-4 15, Stephanie Wilber 5-10 5-5 16, Taylor Wofford 0-0 0-0 0, Rachel Givens 1-3 1-2 3, Randi Raiford 0-0 0-0 0, Stephanie Egwuatu 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 18-48 13-22 56.
CHIEF SEALTH — Kyle Schoenbachler 0-1 0-0 0, Christina Nzekwe 7-13 1-2 15, Charmaine Barlow 2-10 0-0 4, Desiree Valentine 0-2 0-0 0, Shaneya Valdez 2-12 0-0 4, Nia Jackson 6-15 2-3 15, Regina Rogers 2-8 0-0 4, Ashanii Jenkins 0-1 1-2 1, Cassie Fontenot 0-2 1-2 1, Madeline Jacob 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 20-65 5-9 46.
Three-point shooting — Auburn Riverside 7-26 (Jackson 4-13, Wetmore 1-4, Amojo 1-2, Wilber 1-5); Chief Sealth 1-7 (Nia Jackson 1-3). Rebounds — Auburn Riverside 38 (Wilber 7, Amojo 6); Chief Sealth 44 (Nzekwe 15, Barlow 7). Assists — Auburn Riverside 11 (Wetmore 4, Jackson 30); Chief Sealth 8 (Jackson 3, Valdez 2). Steals — Auburn Riverside 4 (); Chief Sealth 6 (Nzekwe 4). Blocked shots — Auburn Riverside 2 (Jackson, Wilbur); Chief Sealth 0. Turnovers — Auburn Riverside 13 (Jackson 3); Chief Sealth 11 (Jackson 3).