(WSB photo: Foreground, WSHS & Juanita’s leading scorers, Emily Fiso and Tea Adams; background at right, Charli Elliott)
7:58 PM: So close – but not close enough. In a game that just ended at Bellevue College, the West Seattle High School girls fell just short against Juanita, which got the district semi-final win, 51-48. The Wildcats were down by as much as 13 but fought back in the second half, falling just three points short. They play next for district third place, 1:15 pm Saturday vs. Cleveland, also at Bellevue College.
ADDED 1:12 AM: Here’s how Thursday night’s game played out:
West Seattle’s top scorer on the night, senior Emily Fiso, was responsible for its only lead. She sank a three-pointer as the game began, but within the next minute or so, a layup and three-pointer quickly put Juanita on top, 5-3, where they stayed the rest of the game.
This is not to say it was without drama or combat.
While the Wildcats seemed overwhelmed in the first quarter, which ended with Juanita up 23-12, they regrouped for the second quarter and beyond, and slowed the Rebels down, while stepping their own rebounding up.
(WSHS’s Lani Taylor, foreground; Izzy Turk, background)
They wrangled their way to rebounds and repeat shots, but the West Seattle defense couldn’t quite put a lid on Juanita’s #5 Tea Adams, who finished with 30 points, including two 3-pointers in the first quarter alone (a feat matched by WSHS’s Fiso, who had five 3’s by the final buzzer).
The Wildcats’ Lydia Giomi continued working back toward her league-MVP ways after last week’s illness absence, finishing the night as the team’s #2 scorer, with 16.
Juanita’s girls tried their hardest to smother her, and she was fouled repeatedly while trying to get through.
Also a frequent sight during the game – West Seattle’s Lexi Ioane pulling down rebounds, including re-tries after her own shots:
She had 9 points and spent a few minutes on the bench after a tumble toward the start of the fourth quarter.
With each quarter, WSHS chipped away at Juanita’s lead. At halftime, it was 9 points (29-20); as the third quarter ended, it was 5 (39-34). The defense had tightened considerably, and the Rebels were forced to take more outside shots.
(WSHS’s Annalisa Ursino and Charli Elliott)
The clock ran out before the Wildcats’ momentum did; by the final few moments, the West Seattle fans were on their feet, hoping against hope that a last-moment three-pointer might at least tie the game and create time for a come-from-behind win.
It wasn’t an unrealistic hope, given how hard they’d been playing on the comeback curve – grabbing rebounds in a triumphant hold as if they were trophies, swatting at every possible steal opportunity.
The momentum had reached a new level in an electric exchange of possessions after Fiso’s three-pointer with a minute to go in the third. She also scored first in the fourth, taking Juanita’s lead down to three, but the Rebels answered quickly, and owned the subsequent round of rebounding, going on to build their lead to 7 points by midway through the final quarter.
Once again, West Seattle launched a comeback. A Giomi basket brought them within two – 47-45 – then Juanita’s Adams struck twice, widening the gap to six. Fiso’s final three-pointer halved the Rebels’ lead, but those were the last points the Wildcats could muster.
Their Saturday afternoon game against Cleveland will be the second time in eight days they’ve played last year’s state champs – their Metro League title victory was just last Friday. Now the fans, the cheerleaders, and the team gird for the rematch.
–Photos by WSB co-publisher Patrick Sand
–Story by WSB editor Tracy Record