Sports

Overachievers' season overThe Spartans bowed out to the defending champs.

" The girls' basketball season ended as it began - with a loss to one of the state's elite programs, as Meadowdale downed the Spartans 43-34 at the 3A basketball tournament Friday.In between, the girls went 18-5 and achieved far more than anyone expected after senior Alexis Kimball went down with a knee injury in the second game.And after Thursday's blowout loss to eventual tournament runnerup Blanchet, the team came back with a solid defensive effort against last year's state champion Meadowdale. But 14 first-half turnovers and 28 percent overall shooting kept them from knocking off the heavily favored Mavericks. Coming off disappointing losses the previous day, both teams were ragged at the outset. Bainbridge tied the score at 1-1 at 5:36 as Emily Pierce - much more mobile than she had been the previous day after being injured Wednesday in the Rainier Beach victory - hit a free throw. Alice Russell fed Christine Schwager at 5:15 to re-tie the score at 3-3. But the Mavericks scored two quick hoops on a putback when no Spartan blocked out and a steal generated by their full-court press. They added to the stampede with three treys in less than a minute and a half, two of them by UW-bound Kristen O'Neill, and led 17-6 at the end of the quarter. The score was 19-6 early in the second quarter when O'Neill went to the bench with her third foul and presented the Spartans with a superb opportunity. Russell fed Courtney Kimball under the hoop and Fab Rezayat hit a trey to narrow the score to 19-11 within 30 seconds, but the Spartans could get no closer than six as Laura Hornung's lefty hook with 20 seconds left sent the teams into the halftime break at 27-21.Rezayat fed Pierce in the lane to open the third quarter to narrow the score to 27-23, but the Spartans were shut out the rest of the quarter. Tight defense that resulted in a pair of 30-second shot clock violations held Meadowdale to six points and kept the game within reach at 33-23 as the quarter ended.The fourth quarter began with a Rezayat-Pierce hookup and Pierce added another five points to narrow the margin to 35-30 at 4:41.Soon afterward came a crucial play - Bainbridge at the foul lane with what appeared to be a two-shot foul. The first one missed, and the Mavericks stormed downcourt with O'Neill scoring on a layin and being fouled.A minute later she drove again through the entire Spartan team and a bad pass on an ensuing two-on-one fast break virtually sealed the outcome.The referees eventually awarded the Spartans the other half of the original two-shot foul, but the damage by their mistake was done.Apart from two Rezayat free throws, Pierce constituted the Spartans' entire offense in the second half as she scored 11 of her team-high 14 points. She also pulled down a game-high nine rebounds. Rezayat had seven points and five assists, while Schwager added six points and six boards.I'm not that disappointed, Pierce said. We played with a lot of heart today and went out fighting. I'm a lot more pleased with this game than with the way we played against Blanchet.But in the third quarter, we just couldn't get our offense working. Asked whether the team might have been better off losing the first game - Rainier Beach (whom the Spartans narrowly defeated in the opening round) cruised through its next two games and played Seattle Prep for fifth place on Saturday - Pierce shook her head.We got a chance to play up with the big dogs (Blanchet and Meadowdale, which finished second and fourth) and that's great.Gienger was already looking ahead to the next season. Pierce was the only senior on the state roster, which included six freshmen and sophomores.We have a good base group, she said. The younger kids were really excited. The girls are all athletic, and they just need to develop the skills to go along with that. We need to see if the kids will put in the time because teams like Meadowdale play all summer and we usually don't. Her anticipation of the coming season went hand-in-hand with an appreciation of the one just ended:This team way overachieved everything I expected of them. "

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