By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News
After narrowly losing to Orcas Island, 29-34, in a defensive battle in their opening game of the NW1B District playoffs, the Tulalip girls hosted their crosstown rival Grace Academy on Tuesday, February 6, in a loser-out game. In front of a horde of their devout fans, the Lady Hawks took to the Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium hardwood with full knowledge of the stakes: win and advance, lose and go home.
In their two regular season matchups, Tulalip bested Grace 33-27 and 41-29, which gave the home team a boost of confidence seeing the same opponent a third time. That confidence showed on Tulalip’s opening possession when Audrielle McLean splashed a 3-pointer on her first touch and gave her team a 3-0 lead. It showed when moments later Lilly Jefferson shot a midrange jumper that banked in. Those 5 early points would be all the Lady Hawks could muster for a long while though, as Grace implemented a 3-2 zone that stifled Tulalip’s perimeter-oriented offense.
Trailing 5-11 midway in the 2nd quarter, sophomore forward Raylee Lewis battled for an offensive rebound and was rewarded with a put-back bucket. The 5’5” Raylee again snatched a rebound away from Grace’s nearly 6-foot center, and put up a super quick layup off the glass before any defenders could contest. Her two buckets were the Lady Hawks only ones in the 2nd quarter.
Fast forward to early in the 3rd quarter, Tulalip trailed 11-25 and things began to look bleak. The transition game that the girls made their bread and butter on all season was nonexistent, and to make matters worse their senior guard Tieriana McLean was out for the remainder of the game with a wrist injury. They also had no answer for Grace’s center Candice Mugo who resembled Shaq with her dominating presence in the paint.
BUT, and it’s a big but, the beauty of sports is sometimes miracles happen. Epic comebacks. Catastrophic collapses. And whether or not any one thought they could actually come back against such undesirable circumstances, junior guard Audrielle did. At least her play conveyed that.
From late in the 3rd quarter to midway through the 4th, her teammates fought for every loose ball, did their best to corral every rebound and force turnovers, and each time they got another possession, they’d immediately look for Audrielle and pass her the ball. She turned into a true solo artist on offense. Splashing one deep 3-pointer after another. Each met with a louder and louder cheer from the home crowd. After her sixth made 3 ball, the Lady Hawks had clawed their way back to get within one possession of Grace, 28-30, with just under 2:00 left.
Comeback almost nearly complete, the Lady Hawks got a few quality looks in the games final seconds, but they would rim out. Grace would feed their post monster, who scored on their next two possessions, and that was a wrap. Tulalip lost on their home floor 28-35, ending their season.
Audrielle finished with 19 points, Raylee added 6 points, Lilly scored 2 points, and Isabelle score 1 point.
“This season was my first time ever playing basketball,” shared 15-year-old Raylee after the game. “I’ve got a lot of cousins on the team and they were the ones who convinced me to play. My coaches and teammates kept telling me how much I was improving practice after practice and game after game. Looking back at how far I’ve come from the beginning to now, it really did mean so much to play on this team and in front of so many fans from the community. I’m not known as a scorer, so with this being our last game, it was actually real exciting to get some buckets with my parents and grandparents in the stands.”