Looking to cut down the nets after a league championship on their home court – as their boys squad had done two days earlier – the Bellarmine Prep Lady Lions fell victim to cold shooting and the red-hot performance of Yelm’s McKaiela Tyler. The Tornadoes’ junior wing came off the bench to score a game-high 26 points, including four three-pointers in the first half, to lead Yelm to a 54-45 win tonight to claim the Narrows 4A title.
“That’s not usual,” said Lions head coach Kevin Meines of Tyler’s performance off the bench. “But you’ve got to respect everybody, too. We can’t relax on certain players and play hard on other players. It’s a learning experience for our girls.”
The Lions shot out to a 9-2 lead on Ionna Price’s three-pointer with two minutes left in the first quarter, but Tyler answered with two treys of her own to cut it to 10-8. She added another three early in the second to give the Tornadoes an 11-10 lead. Price regained an 18-14 lead with another three and a tough turnaround jumper, but Tyler later hit her fourth three, and gave Yelm a 24-22 at the half with a layup with 17 seconds remaining.
The Tornadoes took control early in the second half with a 14-0 run to make it 38-24, as Anushka Maldonado scored seven points during the stretch. The Lions’ offense, meanwhile, looked flustered as they rushed shots on offense and succumbed to the Tornadoes pressure defense.
“We missed a lot of shots we normally hit,” said Meines. “They played good defense. They’re fundamentally sound. They’re always there. We had to fight for everything we got.”
But the Lions immediately responded with a 10-0 run of their own, as Claire Martin hit two early shots in the fourth quarter and Jayana Ervin – who led the Lions with 10 points and eight rebounds off the bench – hit a layup to cut it to 38-36 with five minutes left.
But that’s as close as the Lions would get, as Yelm hit a couple of key layups and was able to salt away the game at the free-throw line.
“I was proud of our kids,” said Meines of the comeback effort. “They fought. We’ve been preaching that all year. When they compete, and when they fight they’re a tough team to beat. It’s when we relax and go through those two or three-minute stretches where we let them gain momentum that we don’t have anything to answer that.”
Price and Jasmyne Holmes finished with eight points for the Lions, while Maldonado had 11 points for the Tornadoes. Bellarmine claimed the second seed to the district tournament, getting a home game next Tuesday night at 7 p.m. against the winner of Saturday's game between Kentridge and Rogers.