Nobody expected Sehome’s girls’ basketball team to be in the Class 2A State Tournament going into the season.
After a 3-10 start, in which the Mariners’ second leading scorer Madison MacPhee went down with a torn ACL, few expected them to even make the playoffs.
But the Mariners are still alive, and set to play Sammamish in a regional round game on Friday, Feb. 27, at Renton High School.
“I definitely expected us to be better than last year,” Sehome senior Maddy Bryan said in a phone interview. “I knew we had a lot of returning starters, a majority from last year. I thought the season would go well. I was not expecting this, though, but I’m really excited.”
So how did Sehome go from a struggling bottom feeder to a state tournament competitor?
“The kids kept buying and kept believing and kept working hard,” Sehome coach Kim Kirk said in a phone interview. “We’ve been very fortunate through hard work to find success.”
After finishing the regular season 4-3, the Mariners clinched a postseason berth on the last day of the season.
“I think we surprised ourselves a little bit,” Bryan said. “I think there were definitely doubts, but we never stopped playing hard and never gave up.”
The goal the Mariners set at the beginning of the year was to reach the district playoffs, but they didn’t stop there.
Sehome fell to Burlington-Edison in a close game to start the playoffs, but came from behind to beat Lakewood and then topped Archbishop Murphy in a nailbiter to secure a spot in the regionals.
The 41-38 win against the Wildcats was even more sweet, considering Archbishop was the same team that knocked the Mariners out of the playoffs two seasons ago.
“It felt really good,” Bryan said, “especially because we definitely are not as talented as my sophomore year, but we were able to come back and beat them after a couple years.”
Bryan’s notion of the Mariners’ not having as much talent in past years is certainly a struggle Sehome has had to deal with, but what the Mariners lack in raw talent they more than make up for in mental toughness.
“Quit isn’t in their vocabulary,” Kirk said.
Most people may look at a young team like Sehome and think pressure situations might knock them down. But several players, including Bryan, have state tournament experience from the fall sports season — both the girls’ soccer and volleyball teams made it to the state tournament.
So an “extended” playoffs, in which the Mariners’ were fighting for their playoff lives late in the season, hasn’t fatigued Sehome.
“I have a lot of kids that play multiple sports that have been able to put themselves in similar positions,” Kirk siad. “They’re mentally strong kids, even with how young they are. It doesn’t always come around when the freshmen and sophomores are just as strong mentally as the seniors.”
While Bryan is the Mariners’ leading scorer with 12.9 points per game, it’s been a team effort that starts on defense. Devin Grahn and Madison Ulrich are both players that have stood out while Jenny McIntyre and freshman Sarah Eisses have also contributed in big ways.
Still, for the two seniors — Bryan and Megan Bayless, who are also stepsisters — this season has been a great farewell, especially after having to endure a miserable season following two playoff years.
“It was really hard,” Bryan said of last year. “The hardest part was I didn’t feel like I could do anything about it.”
This season has been an entirely different story for Bryan.
Survive and advance has been the motto all year for the Mariners. They’re looking to do that again Friday and who’s to say they won’t shock everyone again?
One thing’s for sure, the Mariners won’t be surprising themselves any longer.