Almost all of the intangibles that got the Arlington Eagles to Saturday night's 4A girls state championship game, were the things that were missing in order to give them a shot at bringing home the title.
Turnovers and missed shots plagued the Eagles as Mead outlasted a gritty Arlington effort with a 58-42 victory, claiming the state championship.
The Eagles came out with high energy to start the game, but the shots weren't falling. Senior guard Krista Showalter missed a couple of lay ups, freshman Jayla Russ missed everything on her first three-point attempt and Mead took advantage, building an early 10-4 lead.
Russ banked in a three-pointer late in the quarter to keep it close and the Eagles trailed 12-7 after one.
In the second quarter the Eagles appeared to settle down. With the Panthers up 14-7, senior guard Taylor Grahm made the first of her four 3s to trim the deficit to four. Moments later Grahm struck again, he second three cut the Panthers lead to 16-13.
"Here is what I tell Taylor Grahm all the time, 'shooters shoot,'" Marsh said. "And we needed her to shoot the ball tonight and she came out and was aggressive and looked for her shots."
But Mead didn't get to be the No. 1 ranked team in state by accident. The Panthers responded with a 13-3 run, capped off by scoring the final eight points of the second quarter to take a 29-16 lead at halftime.
Besides the one three by Russ and the two by Grahm, the Eagles had only one other field goal in the first 16 minutes and shot just 4-for-19 from the field (21.1 percent).
"Baskets are at a premium this time of year," Arlington head coach Joe Marsh said. "Against a team like Mead, my goodness, you have to put the ball in the basket – because when you don't they do."
Marsh couldn't have been more right. While the Eagles were struggling, the Panthers were taking advantage. Mead shot 11-for-24 (45.8 percent) in the first half highlighted by Ashlyn Lewey's eight points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting.
"Pretty soon you look up and you are down 10 because they make shot after shot," Marsh said. "They shot lights out tonight."
Missed shots by the Eagles and made shots by the Panthers weren't the only storyline. Turnovers also cost Arlington dearly. The Eagles had 12 by halftime and finished the game with 18.
Showalter and Lindsay Brown, the senior leaders on the team, had just two points between them and shot a combined 1-for-8 in the first half. Brown, the team's leading scorer was scoreless in the first 16 minutes.
Showalter proved that she had the ability to beat Mead's star senior Jade Redmon off the dribble, beating her five times in the first two quarters. But when Showalter got to the rim, she had trouble finishing the play.
"Krista is just a phenomenal point guard," Marsh said. "When the ball is in her hands she gets by people and she usually finishes at the rim and if she doesn't than she will find open people."
Marsh said Showalter's aggressiveness was a key to keeping the Eagles in the game.
Russ struggled as well. The freshman who has burst on the scene in the postseason scored 18 points in the Eagles overtime semifinal win over Lake Stevens, was in foul trouble for much of the first half, keeping her from having a big impact on the game.
"It (the fouls) just affects the flow of the game," Marsh said. "I just feel bad for the girls. It's just tough in a game of this magnitude, I just want to play basketball and let them play basketball and let it be decided by that.
"It is what it is. There is nothing you can do about it."
Brown wasted little time getting her first points and sparking the Eagles in the third quarter. Mead started the half with possession, but Brown came up with a steal and took the ball coast-to-coast drawing a foul. Brown made both free throws to cut the deficit to 11.
It was a great start to the second half for the Eagles, but it wouldn't last. The Panthers methodically wore down the Eagles in the third and took a 46-29 lead after three quarters.
As the Eagles have done all season, they continued to fight. Arlington opened the fourth quarter on a 10-2 run to make it a game, but Mead was too strong down the stretch closing the game on a 10-3 run.
"I don't know what the weakness of that team is, but we didn't find it," Marsh said.
After the game, Marsh was happy with the way his team represented the school.
"The Hallmark of this team is that we just don't quit," he said. "These kids have battled all year long. It's one of the things that we take pride in. They just never go away."
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Tacoma Dome
Arlington - 7 9 13 13 - 42
Mead - 12 17 17 12 - 58
Arlington – Gracie Castaneda 0, Serafina Balderas 0, Taylor Grahm 12, Lindsay Brown 7, Krista Showalter 7, Emma Janousek 0, Jessica Ludwig 4, Winter Brown 0, Jayla Russ 3, Lyndsay Leatherman 7, Marissa Swegle 2. Mead – Sue Winger 16, Sydney Shanholtzer 0, Heleena Leifer 0, Morgan Douglass 0, Ashlyn Lewey 14, Delany Junkermier 9, Madeline Leslie 0, Cierra Dvorak 2, Kierstyn Russell 2, Kylie Bremner 0, Mackenzie McPhee 6, Jade Redmon 9. 3-point goals – Grahm 4, Showalter 1, Russ 1, Winger 2, Junkermier 1. Records – Arlington 22-5 overall, Mead 25-1.
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