Coaches can draw up what they believe are game-winning plays; teams can practice last-second scenarios designed for victory — but sometimes it just comes down to top players making top-notch plays. For the Mountlake Terrace High School girls basketball team, after almost the entire 32 minutes of game action, Tuesday night’s match-up against the Shorecrest Scots ended up being decided by their most proficient playmaker making a game-deciding play in the final seconds.
The Mountlake Terrace Hawks defeated the Scots 61-60 at Shorecrest High School after junior Samantha Romanowski drained a three-point shot over two defenders, while falling down, with 2.4 seconds remaining in the game.
With the final seconds ticking off the clock and the Hawks behind 60-58, Romanowski hurried up the court with the ball toward the 3-point shooting arc, guarded closely by two Scots. “I was hoping they would somehow get off of me so that I could set up and shoot,” she said. “But I knew I had to do it, and I shot it, and thankfully it went in.”
Shorecrest immediately called timeout to set up for one last shot of their own. A full-court pass found its mark and gave the Scots an open look at the basket, but the shot bounced off and the Terrace team celebrated their victory.
With no timeout remaining, Terrace Coach Zach Wilde knew those final seconds of the game were out of his hands. All he could do was watch and hope the team’s top scorer could find a way to win it. “She hadn’t scored in a while,” Wilde noted, “and the shot she shot is probably one that (you think) ‘good God,’ you don’t even want her to shoot it – and she shoots it. But, you know what, you put it in the best player’s hand and you let them go make the play.”
The Hawks had been down 57-52 with 2:05 left, but three-pointers by Nikkie Forehlich and Riley Zucker over the next 43 seconds gave Terrace a 58-57 lead. Then with 22 seconds left in the game Scot Onyie Chibuogwu stole a Terrace inbound pass and banked in a lay-in to put Shorewood up 59-58. A free throw by Keyonna Jones with 10.9 seconds remaining pushed the Scots lead to 60-58, setting up Romanowski’s heroics.
The game was close throughout, with the teams tied 13-13 at the end of the first quarter, and 27-all at the end of the first half.
Maddy Kristjanson led Terrace in scoring with 19 points, with Froehlich adding 14 and Romanowski contributing 11, none bigger than her final three. The Scots had four starters score in double figures: O. Chibuogwu led the team with 20 points, Keyonna Jones scored 13, Uju Chibuogwu added 12 and Lindsey Shattuck put up 10.
With the win the Hawks (11-1 in Wesco League play, 15-3 overall) are guaranteed at least a tie for the Wesco League regular season championship. “It was so important for us to get this one,” Romanowski said. “We’ve done so much work to get to this, and we’re all so proud of each other.”
While team chemistry is something coaches strive to manufacture in their squads, the Lady Hawks seem to have an authentic bond with each other. “I notice a lot of teams come out here and players will have a couple people on the team that they’re really close friends, but with us, we’re all together. We stick together,” Romanowski explained. “If there is a problem with one of our friends, it is all of our problem. In school you always see us together. I mean, we have other friends, but we all have lunch together, we all spend our time at school together, we do everything together. If we’re going to do something with another friend, we invite everyone. We’re a real family.”
“We trust each other so much. We can get it done,” she added. “We all know each other’s weaknesses and strengths, so if we need something done we know who to give the ball to.”
The next task the Hawks will try to get done is securing the No. 1 North seed in the upcoming 3A District 1 tournament. The team can do so with a win in its final game of the regular season, a home tilt against the Glacier Peak Grizzlies on Thursday, Feb. 6. Tip-off is slated for 7:15 p.m.
MTHS Girls Basketball vs. Shorecrest, Feb. 4
Terrace 13 14 12 22 — 61
Shorecrest 13 14 13 20 — 60
MTHS individual scoring: Maddy Kristjanson 19; Nikkie Froehlich 14; Samantha Romanowski 11; Shaian Pagaling 8; Riley Zucker 7; Claire Zucker 2; Kirsty Dale; Yesenia Pena
Shorecrest individual scoring: Onyie Chibuogwu 20; Keyonna Jones 11; Uju Chibuogwu 12; Lindsey Shattuck 10; Wurrie Njadoe 7; Jazlyn Owens; Arianna Rantz
Records: Mountlake Terrace 11-1 in Wesco League, 15-3 overall; Shorecrest 9-3, 14-5
MTHS next game: versus Glacier Peak, Thursday, Feb. 5, 7:15 p.m. at Mountlake Terrace High School
— Story and photo by Doug Petrowski