TACOMA - "Breathless," when applied to Lauren Dascenzo of Issaquah High School, usually is a term used to describe her play in any of three sports in which she has achieved some measure of elite status.
It certainly is a term applied to Dascenzo in soccer, where she is a Gonzaga signee, two-time KingCo Player of the Year and 3A state champion. It also is a word she uses to describe her state during the days following Issaquah's state crown, when she switched over to basketball, another sport in which she has achieved multiple all-league appointments.
"I couldn't breathe," Dascenzo said on Wednesday, after she helped the Eagles topple Tumwater 49-39 in the first round of the State 3A tournament.
And it was no wonder. Dascenzo went to her doctor and was diagnosed with mononucleosis (or "mono"), the energy sapping virus. She'd had it for weeks, during Issaquah's state-title run in soccer, and finally was feeling the effects.
Mono sidelined Dascenzo for the first half of Issaquah's basketball season. The Eagles were unbeaten in league play the year before, but failed to advance past districts. This year, they went 8-2 without Dascenzo, then made a run to the state tournament that included a victory in district play over Rainier Beach, last year's state runners-up.
Dascenzo seemed in top form on Wednesday, in spite of the missed time. She didn't register her first miss from the field until the 2:55 mark in the third quarter and finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, five steals and three assists.
"I kind of feel like I'm just getting started," said Dascenzo, who also plays softball in the spring. "State seemed like it came really quickly. I'm feeling like I'm finally getting my shot back. I'm finally feeling mentally prepared for the hard games. The games in KingCo aren't the toughest and I jumped right into the harder games in district. Maybe that was the best thing for me."
While Issaquah Coach Kathy Gibson hangs the "gutty" label on Dascenzo, the 5-foot-8 senior quickly passes that term to Ellen Vertatschitsch, her junior teammate. In the fall, Vertatschitsch landed awkwardly with a rebound against Libery, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and was thought to be lost for the season. She made an inspiring return, however, playing against Holy Names in district play, but suffered a recurrence of the injury the next game against Rainier Beach.
Miracle of miracles, Vertatschitsch refused to sit out Issaquah's state tournament run, put a brace on her right knee and Wednesday played seven minutes against Tumwater. She is scheduled to have corrective surgery on the knee on March 11. When Vertatschitsch suffered the second tear in six months, her teammates were devastated.
"Everyone was balling in the locker room," Dascenzo recalled. "We just beat Rainier Beach and we were all crying.
"I'm very proud of her for not being scared," Dascenzo added of Vertatschitsch's play against Tumwater.
Sport is full of surprises - and life lessons. Dascenzo's senior year in high school seems to be about both. After all, even she says she was surprised that soccer turned out to be her ticket to college.
"Basketball," she says, "has been my passion my whole life."
Dascenzo is getting to pay homage to that passion, one last time, on the biggest stage possible, this week.
COMPLETE 3A TOURNAMENT COVERAGE:
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