From a 1-19 record last year to a 3-10 start this season to the state regionals.
That’s the story of Sehome’s young girls’ basketball team.
The Mariners (9-14), seeded last in the Class 2A District 1 Tournament, scored the game’s last nine points to stun second-seeded Archbishop Murphy (16-6) in a loser-out, winner-to-state thriller on Thursday, Feb. 19, before a delirious group of Sehome fans.
“I can not tell you how proud I am of these girls,” said Sehome coach Kim Kirk, who is in her seventh season as head coach. “No team I’ve known has gone through the adversity these girls have experienced.”
The Mariners will play for third place and a seeding advantage at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21, on the same court against Blaine, a 54-48 winner over Shorecrest in the other winner-to-state game.
Kirk — holding her 4½-year-old son Kaden in the crazy swirl of tears and congratulations surrounding her — looked like the picture of sheer coaching ecstasy.
“For sure, the biggest moment of my coaching career and an incredible effort for our team,” Kirk said. “I can’t say how huge this is for our team.”
Maddy Bryan, the only senior starter, scored six of those fateful final nine points in a whirlwind of effort for the 5-foot-9 hustler.
“Nobody believed in us but ourselves,” said Bryan with a stunned look through tears, referring to the outlook for the season and the tournament. “But we believed.”
Bryan said that it was cool Sehome’s shocker enabled the Northwest Conference boys and girls to make history by sweeping all eight regional spots at districts.
“That feels awfully good,” she said with a shy smile, not accustomed to the role of super heroine.
The whole Sehome team seemed to don capes and just fly through the final four minutes after Archbishop star Megan Wall scored seven of her 20 points to give the Wildcats a 38-32 advantage with four minutes left. Wall’s three-pointer from the corner indeed seemed like the dagger.
But Sehome simply refused to wilt.
Marina Wright, who provided excellent minutes in a reserve role, scored on a rebound, cutting Archbishop’s lead to 38-34. Then Bryan scored on a drive at the 2:07 mark and then hit a nothing-but-net 14-footer for a 38-all tie with 1:33 remaining.
Madison Ulrich grabbed a rebound at 1:08 and set up her own free throw for a 39-38 lead with 53 seconds to go. Devin Grahn stopped the next Wildcat possession with a rebound with 24 seconds left.
Then it really got Wildcat. Sehome, playing with poise for such a young group, helped force a turnover on the baseline with 7.2 seconds left. Grahn then twice inbounded the ball to Bryan, who was fouled after the first pass, and Bryan responded with the a pair of free throws with five seconds left -- the biggest points of her life.
After an Archbishop timeout, the Wildcats tried passing the ball a long way down court, but Sehome wisely let it go, meaning the Mariners got the ball back under their own basket. After a meaningless foul, it was game over.
More than three dozen Sehome followers snapped team pictures and Bryan just simply said, “I thought we could,” when asked if the team had any doubts about their ability to handle the Wildcats. She played perhaps her best game ever, finishing with 19 points, six rebounds, four steals and four assists.
Wall came in leading the district with a 19-point average and scored 20, 24 and 20 points in three district games. She had 15 of her team’s 17 second-half points, but Sehome limited her to 9 for 20 shooting. Limiting her to 20 shot attempts is simply great defense in anyone’s book.
Bryan had excellent help from Devin Grahn, who made a vital 3-pointer in the third period, and Ulrich, who also hit a huge third-quarter 3-pointer and finished with six points. Sarah Eisses, the Mariners’ much-improved 6-foot freshman post, scored eight points, all in the first three quarters to keep Sehome alive.
Others who played a major role via defense and making minimal mistakes against a very potent defensive at were Jenny McIntyre, Megan Bayless, Samantha Hruby, Maddy Hooker and Gina Eisses.
Wall threw a scare into the Mariners as the 5-11 power forward made all four of her third-quarter shots, giving the Wildcats a 31-30 lead after three quarters.
But on this night, the Mariners were destined to make history by returning to the regionals for the first time since 2012 and qualifying as one of the youngest regional qualifiers.