STORY & PHOTOS BY GLENN NELSON
TACOMA, Wash. - The Greater Spokane League? Nice little circuit, but who do they play anyway? Only each other, but, it turns out, that is enough.
It is when you have the team, University, with the best player in Washington state, Angie Bjorklund, and the team that plays the best defense, Lewis and Clark, which happens to be the defending State 4A champion. Those two will square off for the fifth time this season, in the 4A championship at 7 p.m. in the Tacoma Dome on Saturday. Also playing on Saturday, for fourth place, is perhaps the most well-rounded team in the tournament, Mead, which has inside play, guard play and very good speed and athleticism.
Angie Bjorklund Scores 34 in Winning Cause: The country's No. 2 senior hit six threes, including three in succession in the first half, as University advanced to the championship with a 56-47 victory over Prairie.
'The Stick' Sticks a Game-Winning Three for Tigers: Lyndi Seidensticker, who finished with 23 points, collected the last three on a game-winning shot for the defending 4A champs with 4.3 seconds left.
Block Watch: Mount Tahoma's 5-9 Shauneice Samms had four more swats against Lake Stevens to up her tournament-record career total to 40.
And, oh yeah, Mead plays in the GSL, too.
"We were prepared because of our league," Mead coach Regan Drew said. "We spend the year beating up on each other, and we're better for it."
Excuse the rest of the state for not understanding this essential fact. If the GSL were a movie, it would be "A League of Their Own." Theirs is purely in-bred success because all their so-called "non-league" games are mandated to be played against other GSL schools (yeah, we don't get it, either).
Technically, the only non-league games GSL teams play are in the post-season. But even those, as evidenced by the 4A title tilt, pretty often are against other GSL teams (again, GSL vs. GSL is, according to the GSL, the very definition of a non-league game). So we suppose Saturday really is the GSL championship game and, like the WNBA, the GSL decides its champion with a best-of-five format.
And, to imagine, the whole state of Washington east of the Cascades gets only three invites to the 16-team State 4A field.
"If this were the NCAAs," University coach Mark Stinson said, "we'd get more than three teams, that's for sure."
Speaking of the NCAAs, that's where you'll find Bjorklund the next four years with the University of Tennessee. Friday night, she played as if she already were there, dropping 34 points, including five threes, on Prairie during a 56-47 victory that reversed last year's semifinal matchup between the two schools. Bjorklund had 13 in the first quarter alone, outgunning Prairie junior Ashley Corral, who had four three in the period, by one, then helped hold Corral to a single point in the second half.
Ashley Corral of Prairie pleads her case
It almost was as if Bjorklund had barely played the first two game and came on like a frisky puppy when everyone else had been through a grind. Oh yeah, that is what happened, with foul trouble limiting Bjorklund in victories over Lake Stevens and Bothell.
"I don't know if I planned that," said Bjorklund, who also had eight rebounds and six assists, "but it sure worked out."
What worked out for Lewis and Clark in the first semifinal was its punishing, leg-robbing, end-to-end pressure, which melted Kentwood super-soph Lindsey Moore and served as down-the-stretch kryptonite for Courtney Vandersloot, who'd otherwise been pulling off her Supergirl routine with 34 points. After uncharacteristically throwing away a pass off penetration, Vandersloot ploughed into Kelsey Baker for an offensive foul with the scored tied at 57 and just 31.5 seconds to play.
The Lewis and Clark coaching staff had warned its players of Vandersloot's penchant for attacking the rim, so when Baker noticed Kentwood was running a one-four low offensive set, she held her ground in the lane.
Along with the superb defense came the Tigers' best offensive execution of the tournament, thanks mostly to Montana State-bound Lyndi Seidensticker, , who had an early hot hand and finished with 23 points. She'd cooled considerably when Kentwood doubled low on Katelan Redmon and the future Washington Husky kicked the ball out to Seidensticker on the left wing. She didn't have time to contemplate whether she was hot or cold or just tepid and slung in the game-winner with 4.3 seconds to play.
Lyndi Seidensticker gets off the game-winning
three for Lewis and Clark
Afterward, Redmon, Katelan's uncle and coach, sounded a little as if he dodged one bullet in Vandersloot just to face another in Bjorklund.
"They are two different players," he said. "Courtney finishes at the rim better. I've never seen a player with her size and athleticism finish at the rim better. Bjorklund can pull up from anywhere at any time."
University and Lewis and Clark have split their first four games, with University winning the past two while handling the Tigers' pressure and getting Bjorklund off for 49 total points. The issue on Saturday will be whether the trend can be continued. Like a lot of things this tournament, it seems to be a question whose answer is for the GSL to know and the rest of us to find out.
Kentwood's Courtney Vandersloot had a constant escort up the floor,
such as the one provided here by Ula Tuala (left) and Brittany Kennedy
of Lewis and Clark
Fifth Place: Jackson vs. Mount Tahoma, 11:30 am
Fourth: Mead vs. Snohomish, 1:30 pm
Third: Kentwood vs. Prairie, 3:30 pm
Championship: Lewis and Clark vs. University, 7:00 pm
Jackson 56, Puyallup 38
Mount Tahoma 73, Lake Stevens 59
Mead 71, Roosevelt 56
Snohomish 51, Bothell 38
Semi: Lewis and Clark 60, Kentwood 57
Semi: University 56, Prairie 47
Puyallup 50, Central Kitsap 38
Jackson 59, Skyview 55
Mount Tahoma 69, Bellarmine Prep 52
Lake Stevens 51, Kentlake 34
Lewis and Clark 50, Roosevelt 43
Kentwood 70, Mead 60
Prairie 54, Snohomish 33
University 60, Bothell 22
Lewis and Clark 59, Puyallup 36
Roosevelt 61, Central Kitsap 27
Kentwood 58, Skyview 44
Mead 74, Jackson 59
Prairie 48, Bellarmine Prep 22
Snohomish 56, Mount Tahoma 48
Bothell 59, Kentlake 41
University 53, Lake Stevens 43
Tournament Top Guns (through Thursday)
Courtney Vandersloot, Kentwood, 35 points vs. Mead
Courtney Vandersloot, Kentwood, 34, vs. Lewis and Clark
Angie Bjorklund, University, 34 vs. Prairie
Kristi Kingma, Jackson, 31 vs. Mead
Mandy Saintz, Bothell, 27 vs.
Kristi Kingma, Jackson, 23 vs. Skyview
Kelli Valentine, Mead, 23 vs. Jackson
Lyndi Seidensticker, University, 23 vs. Prairie
Ashlee Smith, Skyview, 21 vs. Jackson
Ashley Corral, Prairie, 21 vs. Snohomish
Jazmine Redmon, Mead, 21 vs. Roosevelt
Courtney Vandersloot, Kentwood, 20 vs. Skyview
RaNesha Pate, Mount Tahoma, 19 vs. Snohomish
Dacotah Ettl, Central Kitsap, 19 vs. Puyallup
Mary Ochiltree, Lake Stevens, 19 vs. Kentlake
Shauneice Samms, Mount Tahoma, vs. Lake Stevens
Tournament Top Glass Cleaners (through Thursday)
Shauneice Samms, Mount Tahoma, 23 rebounds vs. Bellarmine
Brittany Tri, Lake Stevens, 14 vs. Mount Tahoma
Mackenzie Argens, Roosevelt, 13 vs. Central Kitsap
Mandy Saintz, Bothell, 13 vs. Snohomish
Brittany Eskridge, Jackson, 12, vs. Mead
Dara Zack, University, 12 vs. Bothell
Kelli Valentine, Mead, 11 vs. Kentwood
Darylynn Moss, Bothell, 10 vs. Kentlake
Morganne Comstock, Kentlake, 10, vs. Lake Stevens
More Washington 4A Tournament Coverage
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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 girl's 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). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.