STORY & PHOTOS BY GLENN NELSON
LeeAnn Palo of Woodinville gets swallowed up by Eisenhower defenders
Laiken Dollente of Eisenhower
TACOMA, March 11 - All season long, Eisenhower ploughed through the opposition, compiling a 21-0 regular-season record based on throttling, full-court pressure and the leadership of three Division I-bound seniors.
The blitzkrieg continued three games into district play, but the Cadets hesitated at the extra 18 feet, the difference between the length of high-school courts and those used on mostly college venues used for postseason play. So they stopped pressing, and a funny thing happened. They lost.
Not only did they lose, they lost big to University, 67-42, and were forced to play two games the next day just to qualify for the State 4A girl's basketball tournament. In the second of those two games, Eisenhower lost Nevada-bound forward Marianne Lombardi, the lynchpin of its press, to an eye injury.
And that's why, fearing a lack of depth, Eisenhower did not pressure a quick and deep Auburn Riverside - and lost again - in the quarterfinals. Throwing caution to the wind in loser-go-home games, the Cadets pressured Lincoln, then Woodinville, and beat both to claim the fourth-place trophy.
Cassie Robbins of Eisenhower
"We played each of these games with desperation," said Laiken Dollente, the Portland-bound guard who led Eisenhower with 19 points in its 62-57 victory over Woodinville. "Knowing each game could have been our last game, we had a lot of energy."
Dollente - whose mother came up with her first name, Laiken, from a soap opera on which she was hooked during her pregnancy - seemed the Cadet most unleashed by the change in approach. She also scored 18 points against Lincoln and had five steals during the two consolation-bracket game.
The Cadets used their pressure to turn a well-played game featuring seven Division I athletes; in addition to Dollente, Claire Faucher is headed to Portland State and post Cassie Robbins is headed to Washington State for volleyball, while Woodinville's LeeAnn Palo is headed for Utah State, junior Amanda Best has committed to New Mexico and Amanda Fleischman is going to Washington for softball. Eisenhower's pressure also helped survive a three-for-all from Woodinville. Best splashed a pair of three to briefly tie a tournament record for most in an event, and the Falcons set an overall team tournament record with 28 in all.
Eisenhower was left pondering some big what-ifs. First there was the absence of Lombardi, its second-leading scorer and inside complement to the 6-foot-2 Robbins, who had an outstanding tournament. Then there was the press that possibly could have gotten the Cadets past Riverside.
"We think that's our strong point," coach John Triplett said.
And now they know for sure.
Our Complete 2006 State 4A Tournament Coverage Menu:
4A Tournament Gallery
Dozens of images from one of the most competitive State 4A tournaments in years, starting from the championship game and moving back to the beginning.
Elite 11: Tigers Roar
Lewis and Clark had the best combination of size, guard play, defense and coaching in the state this season.
A 4A Family Affair
Katelan Redmon's timely but unexpected 22 points help land a state championship for her and her uncle, Lewis and Clark coach Jim Redmon.
4A Tournament Recap
MVP, all-tournament team with profiles and comments, all scores and statistical leaders.
Practice Makes ... Third
Dara Zack practiced for the moment and came through for University, earning the Titans their highest finish at State.
'Desperation Mode' for Ike
After a quarterfinal loss, Eisenhower tossed all inhibitions aside, and plotted a course to fourth place.
Block Party for T-Birds
Mount Tahoma's unorthodox, frantic style, led by Shauniece Samms' shot-blocking, powered the T-Birds through the consolation bracket for a fifth-place finish.
Big and Defensive
Lewis & Clark and Prairie reach the State 4A championship game with great size and defense.
Stock on the Rise
The Kentwood junior has been the talk of the State 4A tournament and a hit with college coaches and scouts.
Pick Your Poison
There is so much to fear from the four 4A semifinalists, it's difficult to choose which to fear most.
Remember the Titans
When considering the candidates for 2006's darlings of destiny, Angie Bjorklund and University stand out from the pack.
Wednesday 4A Photos
Images from furious first-round action at the Tacoma Dome.
The Wolfpack is Back
One amazing youth basketball team helped produce three of the region's top young point guards, plus the core of the Jackson High School team that qualified for the State 4A
tournament for the first time in its history.
4A Bracket Breakdown
How we see the tournament unfolding, round by round and game by game, to a University vs. Auburn Riverside final featuring stars Angie Bjorklund and Julie Futch.
Elite Eleven: You Go, Girls
Three women - Joyce Walker, Penny Gienger and Kathy Gibson - enjoyed outstanding, role-setting seasons in girl's high-school basketball..
State 4A Team Capsules
Essential information on tournament participants, with power rankings by HoopGurlz.com (not predicted finish). Individual team capsules also can be accessed by clicking team
name from front-page list of qualifiers.
Know where all the seniors are headed after the tournament. We have the most complete list anywhere of Division I commitments by players from Washington and Oregon.
Glenn Nelson is the publisher of HoopGurlz.com and the editor-in-chief of Scout Media (www.Scout.com), an online sports network and magazine-publishing company and subsidiary of Fox Interactive Media. Glenn also founded and coached
the Dragons and Northwest HoopGurlz select girls basketball teams. He previously was a longtime, national-award-winning basketball columnist and writer for The Seattle
Times. His work also has appeared in several national magazines and books. He is co-author of "Rising Stars: The Ten Best Players in the NBA" (Rosen Publishing, 2002).