TACOMA —The deeper you go in postseason play, the stiffer the competition gets and that truism played out at the Tacoma Dome Thursday morning in the Falcons dramatic 57-50 win over the Titans.
“It’s all nail-biters from here on out,” Woodinville’s Mia Hughes said. “When you get to this point every team you play is good — no pushovers.”
Neither team was lighting it up early as both were having trouble getting the ball to drop through the cylinder. The scoring picked up a bit in the second quarter, but still a relatively low output that had Todd Beamer up 25-24 at the break.
“It was a slower pace offensively, which was actually helpful for us because our shots weren’t falling as much as we had hoped for in the first half,” Hughes said. “But it ended up working out for us.”
The second half of the contest turned into a physical affair as bodies banged together and several players were picking themselves up off the floor.
“The refs definitely let us play a bit more than usual, which was both nice and not so nice,” Hughes said. “But it was fair and equal for both sides.”
Coach Scott Bullock said he favors that style of play.
“We like physical games,” he said. “Mia’s game is all about playing inside —getting the right angles and being tough for the most part. The refs let us play and I like that.”
After a back and forth third and fourth quarter, it was anyone’s ball game to win as the teams were separated by just two points with Woodinville holding a 49-48 edge with 52 seconds left to play.
Natalie Bright came up clutch for the Lady Falcons moments later converting a 1-and-1 opportunity at the free-throw line to put Woodinville up 51-48.
The Titans Aaliyah Alexander, refusing to let the three-point gap dissuade her, dropped in a bucket to get Beamer within a point, 51-50 with 35 ticks left on the clock.
Hughes, continuing to put the game on her shoulders, pulled off a 3-point play seven seconds later to make it 54-50 Falcons.
Bright iced it with two more free throws in the waning seconds. Brooke Beresford rounded out the scoring with a made free throw to bring the final tally to 57-50 Woodinville.
“That was a very stressful finish,” Bright said. “I was so nervous my knees were shaking. But I wanted to make sure I could to get it done — didn’t want to lose it for the team because the goal is to get to the next round.”
Bullock was pleased with the effort the team exhibited against a formidable opponent.
“This was a good physical game against a really good team,” he said. “They have a few really solid players — Aaliyah Alexander is so strong — Sharay Trotter is so athletic.”
Alexander finished with 21 points. Trotter knocked down 16. Halo Parks added 13.
“They put up a lot of points and we had to match them and fortunately Mia was fantastic — had 34 points,” Bullock said. “And Natalie hits some big free throws.
“The game could’ve gone either way. But we were able to manage it at the end and fortunately, our team was ahead when it counted.”
Beresford finished with nine points. Tatum Thompson, Veronica Sheffey and Bright had an uncharacteristic point production ending up with just four each.
The win over the Titans advances Woodinville to a semifinal round match up with familiar foe Glacier Peak Friday at 3:45 p.m. whom the Falcons beat 62-57 in overtime in the District Championship game Feb. 21.
“That one could’ve gone either way,” Bullock said. “They have a very talented team — like to run and can shoot the ball well. It’s going to be a good game.”