The scoreboard read six minutes left in the fourth quarter Edmonds-Woodway Warriors 60, Mountlake Terrace 40. Coach Zach Wilde is visibly upset at the officiating late in the game. He starts to bark at the officials and picks up a technical foul.
How do you think this story ends? Six minutes to score 20 points?
Sometimes, miracles do happen. Miracles, and hard work, dedication, aggressive defense, and efficient offense that is. The Hawks proceeded to go on a 23-2 run to close out the game, sealing a 63-62 victory over the 2-0 class 4A Warriors.
Early in the game, it was clear that it would come down to the wire (albeit, nobody saw it coming down the way it did). Both teams were playing scrappy defense, and while the Hawks seemingly ran a better offense, they were making several mental mistakes, picking up eight fouls in the first half to Woodway’s four.
Nearing halftime, the Hawks led 31-29 when the Hawks’ junior guard Samantha Romanowski picked off a lazy Warrior pass with roughly 10 seconds left to play. As she began to find separation from the lone Warrior defender, a referee blew his whistle killing the play. Apparently, the clock had not started at the beginning of the play, thus killing a Terrace fastbreak that would have put the Hawks up 33-29 at the half and given the team some amount of momentum.
Similar headscratching calls were made all night for both teams (my apologies SLSN announcer Steve Willits, you were correct), as it seems the officials had lost control of the game. Hand checking fouls were spotty at best, a Warrior post was consistently violating the “three-in-the-key” rule, the post game was a crapshoot as well, blocking and charge fouls were scarce, and when called were generally questionable.
But all good teams find a way to overcome adversity, and immediately, for the first half of the third quarter, it seemed as if the Lady Hawks just couldn’t find a way to get it done. The Warriors opened the quarter with a 12-0 run in the first four minutes, leading 41-31 with just over half of the quarter left to play. At the end of the third, the Hawks trailed 49-36.
Into the fourth quarter, it still seemed as if the Warriors were running away with it. The Hawks’ offense grew tired, and played sloppy, letting routine passes slip through their hands and giving up easy turnovers in the form of steals by the Woodway guards.
With about six minutes left to play, Woodway had extended its lead to 60-40. The game appeared to be over. But something lit a fire inside the Lady Hawks. Whether it was the technical foul Wilde picked up or just a drive for personal pride, the team picked up its play. At the halfway point of the quarter, they had cut the lead to just 11 points, trailing 62-51.
The Warriors would not score again.
Junior guard Riley Zucker did what she did best, playing (mostly) clean defense, swiping the ball away from the Warriors and keeping the momentum in favor of the Hawks.
Senior post Maddy Kristjanson adjusted to the physical play by the Warriors and absolutely dominated the boards, fighting tirelessly to get the ball back.
Senior point guard Nikkie Froehlich guided the offense, dishing the ball around to whoever had an open shot. Most often that was Romanowski.
Romanowski played a massive role in the comeback, turning it on at just the right time and hitting shot after shot, using her long arms to steal passes and go on a fastbreak, eating away at that 20 point Warrior lead. After the game, Wilde said, “It was her (Romanowski’s) defense, honestly. She get’s real happy and excited when she’s hitting shots, but her aggressiveness, her arms got big, she started getting steals, and that just pumped her up and that just pumped the team up. She’s a junior but everyone follows her.”
“That third quarter? I want to erase it from my mind, but I can’t. These girls are just starting to believe. From day one it’s been about culture. They’re starting to change their mind right now, it’s just something nice to be a part of. Something finally stuck in their head. They finally believed that something could happen. In the third quarter, things got really stagnant. The ball didn’t move. We looked to Sam, just for her to score. The fourth quarter everyone started moving, started attacking. Maddy got some big boards, Senaiet (Zerom) came off the bench, helped out, it was a real team effort,” Wilde said.
Nearing the end of the game, despite their efforts, with 34 seconds left, the Hawks still trailed 61-62, and star scorer Romanowski had fouled out and was sitting on the bench. Froehlich moved the ball around to kill some time, and then with about 15 seconds left, began her drive up the middle of the key, dodging three Warrior defenders before banking a fadeaway jumper off the backboard, giving the Hawks a 63-62 lead with just 13 seconds left to play.
“I walked over to Nikkie and said ‘it’s your time to go out there.’ I’ve been trying to say that to her for a long time, and for a girl who passes the ball every time, she sure made a great shot at the end of the game,” Wilde said.
After fouling the Warriors with just five seconds left in the game, Woodway missed both free throws and were forced to foul Senaiet Zerom, thus closing out the victory for the Hawks.
“Is it real? We’ve got Sam Romanowski on the bench and we just came out an won against a good team, a team that made a lot of shots, for our team that only won seven games last year. It’s going to be hard to chill down and get some sleep tonight,” Wilde said.
The Hawks are 4-0. They’re the real deal. And wherever they show up, they’ve come to play. If coming back from a 20 point deficit doesn’t prove that, I don’t know what will.