Can the Viking basketball girls accomplish what the Viking wrestlers did at the Tacoma Dome two weeks ago, bring home a state title?
Muddling through some discouraging losses in mid-season, Lake Stevens (buoyed by the return to the lineup of 20 points per game scorer Brooke Pahukoa after a six-game layoff due to a finger injury on her shooting hand) has gotten hot in the Playoffs, winning five of six to earn a trip to the Final Eight in the Dome on Thursday.
Lake has seized the opportunity to overcome last season’s bitter disappointment when its 22-2 season ended with a loss to eventual state champion Skyview in the round of sixteen.
Lake (19-7) earned its way to Tacoma by winning four straight loser-out games at District and Regional, three of them last week.
LAKE 57 SNOHOMISH 40 (District at Jackson February 16)
A brilliant first half by point guard Brittney Pahukoa put the game in the bag for the Vikings. In the first two quarters Brittney scored 11 points, handed out six assists and made seven steals as Lake exploded to a 15-8 quarter lead and 31-15 at halftime.
Snohomish was unable to mount a serious threat in the second half as Lake maintained a good lead throughout.
Especially encouraging was Lake’s effective play inside. Emily Vandegrift contributed nine rebounds towards Lake’s 32-27 margin in that category and she added five points. Kali Long notched 10 points along with four assists.
Brooke Pahukoa regained her shooting touch after struggling against Lynnwood in the previous game, at one stretch connecting on six straight baskets and nine of 11, finishing with 23 points.
Brittney finished with 15 points, seven assists, seven steals and six rebounds.
One point of concern was Lake’s three-point shooting, which had fallen off in the latter part of the season; the Vikings missed all four of their shots from that range.
LAKE 48 AT NEWPORT OF BELLEVUE 43 (REGIONAL, FEBRUARY 19)
Lake faced a “sizeable” opponent in Newport, with two players over six feet tall including 6-4 Casey Schoenlein.
Randy Edens’ Vikings rose to the challenge with a game plan that saw Vikings step up their defensive pressure, with Long and Vandegrift mostly neutralizing the Knights’ size advantage and Lake’s quick hands and feet forcing 16 first half turnovers, 12 of them via Viking steals.
An equally important key to Lake’s win was its toughness on the backboards, edging the Knights by 31-30 in that area.
Despite Lake’s big turnover advantage in the first half the Vikings trailed at the quarter break by 15-13 and fell behind by 19-13 before outscoring Newport by 15-3 to lead by 28-22 at the half.
That Viking spurt featured two baskets each by Long and Vandegrift.
Lake held Newport to a single field goal (none in the final seven minutes) of the third quarter but the Knights stayed within 37-30 thanks to making all six of their free throws. Lake managed to score only nine points in the quarter, the final two baskets coming late in the period on a steal and on a lay-in, both by Brittney.
It got very scary after Brooke netted a pair of baskets early in the fourth quarter to keep Lake ahead by 41-32. But the Vikings failed to score a field goal after that, allowing Newport to close the gap.
Consecutive threes within 25 seconds, by Kaitlin Sahlinger and Laura Moretti, cut Lake’s lead to 41-38 with 5:25 left.
Two free throws by Brittney with 4:01 left made it 43-38 but a lay-in by Sahlninger, followed by one by Anna Crabtree with 2:21 left cut it to 43-42. The Knights had a couple of opportunities to take the lead after that but Lake’s defense held tough and fnally, after having made just seven of 14 free throws up to that point, Lake cashed in on five of six at the stripe in the final 49 seconds.
Brooke, who had missed her previous three free throws, sank four straight. With 49 seconds left she made a pair to push Lake ahead by 45-42; with 11 seconds left she wrapped up the win by converting two more at the line to make it 47-43. Brittney made one of two with a second left for the final score of 48-43.
Once again Brooke led Lake in scoring with 22 points, while snaring six of Lake’s 17 disruptive steals (overall Newport had 27 turnovers, while 10 of Lake’s 17 came after halftime).
Long and Vandegrift combined to make six of nine field goals and 13 points. Their play has improved steadily throughout the playoffs and will be crucial to Lake’s hopes at State.
Five Vikings contributed equally to Lake’s strong rebounding. The Pahukoas and Chelsea Pahls had six boards apiece, Vandegrift five and Long four.
No Knight was in double figures. Schoenlein, despite her size and agility, was held to a pair of baskets and no free throw attempts; her impact came on defense where she blocked six Viking shots; she also took down 10 rebounds.
Once again Lake failed to make a three, missing all nine from that range.
Newport’s jam-packed, cozy gym seemed almost like a home game to Lake thanks to Neil Proff’s lively, hard-driving Viking band which filled a large area of the stands and helped pump up the visitors.
LAKE 54 DAVIS OF YAKIMA 34 (Regional at Wenatchee February 23)
In this winner to Tacoma, loser out battle Lake, heavily favored, was shocked by Davis’ hot shooting in the first quarter. Lake, with a rare size advantage, had to withstand Davis making six of its first seven shots, three of them threes, to forge an early 18-7 lead.
Lake’s superior skill and athleticism then took over. Cassidy Fifield came off the bench to end Lake’s long three-point drought, draining a pair from that range to ignite Lake’s comeback. By quarter’s end Lake trailed by just 19-18.
Viking defense totally commanded the remainder of the game, holding Davis to 15 points in the final three quarter. Lake was down by 23-20 and had not hit a field goal in six minutes when it exploded to a 9-1 run in the final two minutes before halftime, racing to a 29-24 lead.
It was no contest in the second half. Brooke, who was three for 11 in the first two periods, went seven of nine after halftime, finishing with 28 points and 11 rebounds.
Lake led 42-31 after three quarters and held Davis to just three points in the fourth.
Lake’s pesky defense created 20 Davis turnovers, to 11 for Lake (just three in the second half).
Lake made four threes in the game, a good sign for Tacoma.
In its six playoff games so far Lake has yet to surrender more than 45 points in a game, holding the opponents to an average of 41. If that effort holds true at State, Lake is capable of making a run.