Sehome High School girls basketball coach Kim Kirk is convinced she has 10 starters.
Maybe that’s why it’s so easy for her to gauge the Mariners’ significant improvement over last season.
“They all came back from last year,” Kirk said of the 10 girls she regularly rotates after the Mariners saved their season with a 57-45 win over Lakewood on Friday in the loser-out round of the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament.
“I’ve certainly never had a team with this depth,” said Kirk, in her ninth season as head coach after several years as an assistant.
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Her totally team-oriented squad joyfully qualified for the eight-team, double-elimination part of the tournament. The Mariners (12-8) will face Lynden, a second seed, Saturday at 5 p.m. at Jake Maberry Gym.
Kirk felt her Mariners, whose only senior was injured last season, came back more than ready to play after a disappointing 7-13 year.
BREAKOUT FOR PAYNE
The game was especially thrilling for junior guard Alex Payne, who came in averaging 4.5 points but came through with a career-high 19, including five 3-pointers.
“This certainly was one of them,” she said modestly, when asked if it was her best game. “What I liked was that it was my best defensive game. We all played so hard on defense.”
Payne, who shot 6 for 9 from the field, picked the perfect time for her only assist.
She threw a beautiful pass to Sarah Eisses, Sehome’s only 6-footer, and Eisses converted the basket that gave the Mariners a 51-43 lead with 1:45 left.
Eisses, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds, made two free throws with 1:14 to go for a 53-44 lead. Madison Ulrich then wrapped up the win by making three of four from the line in the final minute.
Maddy Hooker played an outstanding floor game along with Madison MacPhee and Ulrich to support fellow starters Eisses and Payne.
The “second starters,” who were all in the game in the first six minutes, combined for 16 points as twins Tori and Carissa McDowell scored consecutive hoops on similar shots to give Sehome a 33-24 advantage late in the first half.
Emma Clark and Taryn Clark, like all 10 regulars, played ferocious defense along with Natalie Zender, who made a big 3-pointer as Sehome struggled in the first quarter and trailed 10-7.
Natalie Neer gave the Mariners fits with five 3-pointers and 20 points for Lakewood (6-15), which played harder and better than its record indicated.
“We’re always pushing each other,” said Payne, thrilled to see the other nine regulars play so hard on defense. “And nobody care who scores.”
“Any kid can show up great for us,” she said. “Thursday was our first practice since last week (due to snow and ice). This was one of our better games. I’m really proud of the girls.”