By WESLEY REMMER
The King’s West Lady Warriors overcame wayward shooting, careless ball handling and a sluggish 20-minute mid-game stretch, defeating the Vikings of Orcas High School, 47-34, in the semifinals of the 2B Western Bi-District basketball tournament at Chief Leschi High School in Puyallup.
Unlike most of KW’s regular season SeaTac League victories — blowouts against overmatched opponents — Monday night’s game forced the Lady Warriors to get gritty and find a way to win.
After taking a 14-6 first-quarter lead, the Lady Warriors stumbled defensively during the next two quarters. Orcas outscored KW 24-13 during that stretch, turning loose balls into second- and third-chance scoring opportunities on the offensive end of the court.
“We played much better defense in the second half,” coach Brian Hanley said after the game. “I was disappointed with the effort in the first half, giving up so many second-chance opportunities. But that’s also a credit to how well Orcas played.”
The Orcas led 24-19 at halftime and 30-27 after three quarters.
It wasn’t until KW senior sensation Megan Spence sparked a monstrous 20-4 fourth-quarter run, unloading on the smaller Vikings down low, that the Lady Warriors gained control of the game.
Spence hit her final five shots and muscled the smaller Vikings around the paint as the game wore on, finishing with 23 points and 24 rebounds.
“We looked to her in the fourth quarter and she carried us home,” Hanley said of team’s all-around leader.
With the game knotted 32-32 with 5 minutes, 49 seconds to play, Spence reeled off three quick baskets, igniting an 11-0 KW run.
After sophomore Hayley Milleson put the Lady Warriors ahead 36-32 with 4:11 to play, hitting what Hanley called “the shot of the game,” a turn-around banker in traffic as the shot clock wound down, Spence scored on consecutive possessions, sealing the deal.
She pushed the lead to six with a 16-foot baseline jumper, then extended the margin to eight, 40-32, by scoring over two defenders on a post-move late in the shot clock.
When the dust finally settled, the game was effectively over as only free throws and fouls prolonged the final quarter.
“We showed a lot of perseverance tonight,” Hanley said. “I was very impressed with our poise and determination.”
And Hanley credited Spence’s supporting cast, especially Milleson, for keeping the game close.
“Hayley played outstanding defense and she was boxing out like a wild woman,” he said. “She hit that clutch shot and it shifted the whole momentum of the game.”
Junior forward Brielle Foley added nine points and 10 rebounds and senior Megan Morris battled the flu, contributing solid defense.
“Megan (Morris) was sick tonight and consequently was a step slower than her usual outstanding self. But she played great defense and was our defensive backbone tonight.”
And though it wasn’t a pretty victory, Hanley believes his team gained valuable experience from Monday’s close, pressure-packed game.
“We weren’t clicking on all cylinders, but we were clicking on enough cylinders to win the game and that’s what matters,” he said. “We’d much rather win a one-point game than lose a one-point game.”
KW faces Shoreline Christian in the district title game, which is tonight at 5:15 p.m. at Chief Leschi. Monday’s win also secured the Lady Warriors a berth to the upcoming state tournament in Spokane, which begins Feb. 27.