SPOKANE - The DeSales girls learned Friday just how fickle momentum can be and the speed and ferocity with which it can turn in their final game at the Class 2B state tournament at the Spokane Arena.
Leading at halftime by two, the Irish fell flat in a disappointing third quarter, and were eliminated by Tacoma Baptist, 58-40.
Facing a taller team for the third straight game - this time a team with multiple scoring threats - the Irish did more than hold their own in the first half; they led.
DeSales held Crusader star Melanie Shank in check the first half, allowing her just 10 points and no 3-point field goals. In the previous round against Asotin, Shank sank nine treys on 12 attempts, a 2B state tournament record, and finished with a tournament high 37 points.
"She was a tough matchup," DeSales coach Tim Duncan said of Shank. "She posted up our smaller guards, and she's too quick for any of our bigger people."
"We came out ready to go in the first half," Irish guard Stephanie Ferrel said. "We stayed close to Shank, and we pressured their whole team a lot."
On offense, the Irish answered every Crusader run with a run of their own. The Irish finished the half with six 3-point baskets on 50 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Tacoma Baptist led 14-8 after six minutes of the first quarter. But DeSales tied it up at the first-period break with a Caitlin Duncan free throw, a Ferrel trey and an Erin Giusti layup.
The Crusaders pushed their lead back to five points with a 7-2 run in the first three minutes of the second, but Giusti and Duncan answered with a two minute, 8-0 run of their own. Each buried a deep ball and Duncan layed up for a 24-21 DeSales lead.
Tacoma Baptist regained the lead, 25-24, with two layups, but Duncan potted another trey to put the Irish up 27-25 at half.
Then the third quarter came. The Crusaders switched defenses, and the Irish withered under the pressure.
"They played a lot of zone in the first half," coach Duncan said. "In a zone, you can move shooters around and find open areas, and we were able to do that. Of course (Tacoma Baptist) had to keep a good eye on where Caitlin (Duncan) was at, and they didn't do a very good job of it.
"Then they went man-to-man in the second half and we had to have other kids step up and make plays, and that didn't work for us," he said.
"We've been used to getting zoned," Giusti said. "Then they went to man in the second half, and we just kind of fell apart in our man offense. We just haven't faced it much lately. People are usually box-and-one-ing us for Caitlin."
"We tried to get open shots, but they defended us really well," DeSales guard Roxana Acock said. "I think their full- court pressure got to us. We'd gotten used to them coming up and defending us in the half-court. I don't think we were ready for them to be pressuring us that much."
Many possessions the Irish lost the ball out of bounds or passed it under pressure into the hands of the Crusader defense. And on the possessions where DeSales got shots off, the balls just wouldn't fall through the hoop.
Tacoma Baptist held DeSales scoreless for the first 5:40 of the third period. The Crusaders cruised to an 11-0 run during the span, and outscored the Irish 18-2 for the quarter.
"We were just losing our man on defense," Caitlin Duncan said. "We weren't matched up. Our transition defense wasn't that great and they kept getting easy buckets."
The Crusaders pushed the lead to 24 - the largest of the game - with a 12-3 run to start the fourth quarter. The Irish closed to the final, 58-40, with a game-ending 8-2 run of their own.
Shank led the Crusaders with 24 points and eight rebounds. Jennifer Rea and Alyssa Wolf added 10 and 11 points to Tacoma Baptist's total, respectively.
Duncan was the only DeSales player to post double figures on the night. She scored 22.
The loss means the end of the season for the Irish, and no trophy. But Tim Duncan doesn't see his team's performance at state as a failure.
"I told them it's been a great year," Duncan said. "We finished in the top 12 in the state, for crying out loud. There were four teams out before today, so we're in the top 12. We won 20 games. Not everyone gets to win 20 games. We have everything to hold our heads up about. We had a great season."
"We didn't talk about the game in the locker room," Giusti said. "We talked about having a 20-win season, and coming back next year. It was a cry-fest."
This was the last game for four Irish seniors: Duncan, Acock, Jaimie Majerus and Katie Hansen.
"It's going to be weird playing without Caitlin, Roxana, Jaimie and Katie, because I've played with them my whole high school career," Giusti said.
"I'm so used to being with the girls; they're like my family," said Acock.
"It's really bittersweet, because I'm probably going to play in college, but it's not going to be the same," Caitlin Duncan said fighting tears. "These girls are like my best friends. And we're really, really close. It's going to be hard."
DeSales finished the season with 20 wins and seven losses.
DESALES (40) - Konen 0-1 0-0 0, Higgins 1-5 0-0 3, Acock 0-0 0-0 0, Duncan 7-22 5-8 22, Giusti 3-6 0-0 7, Blanc 1-2 0-0 3, Majerus 1-2 0-0 2, Moberg 0-1 0-0 0, Hansen 0-1 0-0 0, Zander 0-1 0-0 0, Ferrel 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 14-47 5-8 40.
TACOMA BAPTIST (58) - Burns 0-0 0-0 0, Narayan 0-1 0-0 0, Shank 10-21 2-2 24, Ausmus 0-0 0-0 0, Van Eycke 0-0 0-0 0, Talen 1-4 0-0 2, Wintersole 1-3 0-0 2, Rea 5-11 0-0 10, Lyons 4-5 1-1 9, Zeitler 0-0 0-0 0, Wolf 4-5 3-4 11. Totals 25-50 6-7 58.
DeSales 14 13 2 11 - 40
Tacoma Baptist 14 11 18 15 - 58
3-point goals - DeS 7-18 (Higgins 1-5, Duncan 3-7, Giusti 1-1, Blanc 1-2, Ferrel 1-3), TB 2-10 (Narayan 0-1, Shank 2-9). Total fouls - DeS 7, TB 13. Fouled out - none. Technical fouls - none. Rebounds - DeS 22 (Majerus 7), TB 27 (Shank 8). Turnovers - DeS 20, TB 12. Steals - DeS 3, TB 12 (Lyons 4). Assists - DeS 5 (Blanc 2), TB 6 (Rea 3).