Notes from The Dome: Prairie and Skyview girls
It’s Saturday morning. Early morning. Can’t sleep. Can’t stop thinking about the possibilities for Saturday night.
Clark County might have two state championship girls basketball teams by the end of the day. (Oh, and the Union boys just about made it to the finals, too.)
But for now, let’s focus on the Class 4A and 3A girls tournaments.
Skyview is in its first title game.
Prairie is in its second consecutive title game and 12th overall in the program’s storied history. The Falcons are 5-6 in championship games, with its last title coming in 2003.
That Prairie team, then a 4A school, beat Central Valley. Skyview is playing Central Valley in this year’s 4A title game. Oh, and Central Valley is trying to win its fourth state title.
Yeah, lots of history taking place tonight. Prairie is continuing an incredible tradition. Central Valley is the Prairie of the eastern part of the state. And then there is Skyview, trying to make some school history of its own.
Here are a few Skyview and Prairie notes from the first two days of the girls tournaments.
Aleah Walz makes it to state for Prairie:
Prairie senior Aleah Walz played three minutes in the state semifinal game Friday night. Perhaps three of the coolest minutes of her basketball career.
Or maybe the highlight was last week, when she scored her only varsity point of her career in the state regionals.
Either way, she is having a blast.
But wait a minute. How could a senior playing for Prairie not have scored until last week? The Falcons beat most of their regular-season opponents by 40 or so points. Everybody plays. Everybody scores. Right?
Well, Walz was not a varsity player until the postseason. Walz was a member of the junior varsity squad this season.
Yes, a senior played JV ball.
“I love basketball,” Walz said.
Sports fans should love that attitude. There are very few seniors in any sport who would play for the JV team if they were told they weren’t good enough for varsity. Heck, there are some programs that would not allow it. But Walz said she has a passion for the game and for the Prairie program.
Still, there were no guarantee she was going to be rewarded with a postseason call-up by Prairie coach Al Aldridge.
“I was kind of shocked,” Walz said. “I didn’t think he was going to. I was pretty thrilled.”
Walz played her first two years with the program, then suffered a broken leg last season. So instead of playing last year, she was the JV team’s manager.
Skyview’s Keser with the first-pump:
Delaney Keser was shut out in her team’s opening round game Thursday. A big zero on the score sheet.
Well, anyone who has followed Skyview’s season would know that wasn’t going to happen in back-to-back games. In fact, it was a near certainty she was going to light it up in the next game.
Her first shot, a 3-pointer, was true, giving Skyview a 5-0 lead. It was too early to celebrate a victory, but Keser did give herself a little fist-pump.
A senior starting guard, she knew right away that she did not have to worry about an O-fer performance.
“(Thursday), I was there for moral support. It wasn’t my day to contribute,” Keser said. “(Friday), to have that opportunity to help my teammates, was so satisfying.”
Keser went 5 for 9 from the floor, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range, and finished with a game-high 16 points in the 63-50 win over Gonzaga Prep.
Purple shirts for Prairie?
The Prairie Falcons wore purple warm-up shirts prior to their semifinal game against University.
Maybe in honor of Heather Corral, who is going to the University of Washington?
If that was the case, it worked. Corral was 7 for 11 and made four 3-pointers to score 18 points in an easy victory.
The shirts also had a message:
“We hate to lose more than you love to win.”
Which might be a reason why the Falcons have won back-to-back 14-point victories in the state tournament.
(To be fair, these two 14-point games were very different. Prairie had to rally from a nine-point deficit before pulling away to beat Lakeside in Thursday’s opener. In Friday’s semifinal, the Falcons went up by 23 in the fourth quarter before cruising to the 14-point win.)
Skyview’s Knock-Down and Wow plays:
The Storm raced out to a 7-0 lead against Gonzaga Prep in Friday’s semifinal. The last points of that mini-spurt came courtesy of a Jocelyn Adams screen that sent a Bullpup to the ground. Hard.
Adams, a 6-1 post who plays and looks even bigger, put her body in the perfect spot, then waited for the unsuspecting GPrep defender, who was guarding Stephanie McDonagh.
When McDonagh moved Adams’ way, the defender moved, too, and SPLAT! Defender down. McDonagh, with a little room, took one more dribble then squeezed a perfect bounce pass to Brooke Bowen for an easy lay-up.
It was 7-0 and it was the first knockdown of the fight, er, game.
In the fourth quarter, the Storm threw the ball in from the baseline and then went the full length of the court in a nano-second or three.
Bowen got the ball in the corner, threw a pass to Delaney Keser, who made a catch and a jump-stop just before the half-court line. She spotted Adams open about 15 feet in front of her, then Adams made a catch-and-release pass to a sprinting Katie Swanson who slammed the ball for two points, nearly shattering the backboard with her dunk.
(OK, maybe I exaggerated. Everything up until the slamming part was accurate, though.)
Swanson got the lay-up, and the Storm broke the press with three quick passes. Bingo. Bango. Bongo.
Great to see Corral on the court in Tacoma:
Heather Corral is a talent. No one has ever doubted that.
However, basketball fans outside of Southwest Washington have not had much chance to see her play until this year.
As a freshman, a bad ankle limited her playing time at the state tournament. Then she missed the last two state tournaments with knee injuries.
So one of the best players in the state is finally getting a chance to showcase those talents at state.
In game one, she was instrumental in Prairie’s third-quarter comeback, with her offense and defense. And in Friday’s semifinal, she set the tone early and finished with a game-high 18 points.
“This is really the first year I could get out on the court,” Corral said. “To have a chance to be out there is really nice.”
McDonagh says Yo, Bro!
It was fun, Stephanie McDonagh said, even if she was a bit overwhelmed.
Moments after hitting the game-winning 3-pointer for the Skyview Storm in the opening round of the Class 4A state girls basketball tournament, she was asked to give a radio interview on press row. It just so happened it was about 15 feet in front of the Skyview student section.
Her fans started chanting her name. She was a star. This was her moment.
Yet she also remembered to point to one person first. Her brother, senior Kieran McDonagh, is her biggest fan, at every game.
You might remember Kieran. He was the starting quarterback for the Skyview football team that made it to the championship game this past fall. He has signed with Portland State. Anyway, after every one of his games, he always found his sister in the stands to give a point in her direction, a hello.
Stephanie, a sophomore, returned the favor Thursday during her special moment.
It must have been cool for the guy who will now always be known as Stephanie’s big brother.
Prairie’s Goecke coming up big, too:
Prairie sophomore Nicole Goecke did not have a “game-winning moment” like Skyview sophomore Stephanie McDonagh, but she had a lot of quality moments for the Falcons in their opening round win in the 3A girls tournament.
Goecke made both of her shots and also was 2 for 2 from the line for seven big points off the bench. All of those points came when the Falcons needed them.
Her first two free throws got Prairie within two at 22-20 in the second quarter, a stretch when the Falcons were struggling to score. In the third, her basket got Prairie to within one at 36-35. She then beat the third-quarter horn with a 3-pointer to give Prairie a 45-41 advantage.
The Falcons would not trail the rest of the way.
Friday, she played 21 minutes off the bench, hit a 3-pointer, and grabbed four rebounds.
“Every year, somebody in the second-tier group steps up and makes a difference for us in this tournament,” Prairie coach Al Aldridge said. “It’s been Nicole so far.”
Looking forward to the championship games. Skyview plays at 5 p.m. Prairie will play at 9 p.m.