No. 1 Washington holds off late rally from Jefferson at 'AA' girls state tournament

Warriors build big early lead and use strong defense to make it stand up

The Washington Warriors celebrate on the floor of the Sanford Pentagon after defeating Jefferson in the semifinals of the 'AA' girls state basketball tournament on Friday, March 10, 2023 in Sioux Falls.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

SIOUX FALLS — Friday's 'AA' girls semifinal between Washington and Jefferson came down to the final horn. But it was decided in the first quarter.

The top-seeded Warriors came roaring out of the gate, building a 14-point lead in the first quarter and threatening to run the Cavaliers out of the gym. Jefferson spent the entire rest of the game steadily chipping away at that lead and finally getting within a score in the fourth quarter.

The Cavs had the ball with 1.7 seconds to go, trailing by three, but their potential game-tying shot at the buzzer was no good, allowing the Warriors to advance with a 46-43 win at the Sanford Pentagon.

That was Jefferson's final chance, but it wasn't their only one.

Jaidyn Dunn hit a pair of free throws with 57 seconds left to make it 46-43, but those ended up being the final points of the game. Jefferson stole the inbounds pass after Dunn's free throws, but as they worked for an open shot to tie, Washington used its length in the paint to cover every shooter as the Cavs desperately swung the ball around the perimeter looking for an open shot. Eventually they found an open shooter underneath, but Washington's Hannah Harpe swatted it away.


Jefferson's Cierra Watkins attempts a game-tying 3-pointer at the final buzzer of the 'AA' girls state tournament semifinals on Friday, March 10, 2023 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. The shot was no good and Washington won 46-43.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

"Our kids were running their tails off trying to cover it up," said Warriors coach Jamie Parish of that defensive sequence. "And then trying to chase down an offensive rebound is tough, too, because we've got bodies all over the place. The effort was definitely there."

But Washington missed the front end of a 1-and-1, giving Jefferson another chance. A Dunn 3 from the key was just long and rebounded by Washington's Taryn Larson, but again the Warriors missed the front end of the 1-and-1.

With one last chance to tie, Jefferson got the ball across halfcourt and then called timeout, leaving them 1.7 seconds for the winning shot, but the corner 3 was well-short.

Washington's Hannah Harpe dribbles for an opening against Jefferson in the 'AA' state girls basketball tournament on Friday, March 10, 2023 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

It was a frustrating loss for the Cavaliers (18-5). Outplaying the top-ranked team in the state for the better part of the final three quarters certainly leaves them wondering what a better start could have meant.

"We were down 17-3, that's tough," said Cavs coach Shaunteva Pruett. "We got back on our heels in that first half, but you have to give credit to Washington. I thought we were a little timid right away and didn't come out as hard as I'd have liked us to. But I couldn't have asked for more fight. It would've been easy for that to end up a 30-point loss. I couldn't be prouder of how hard we worked to get back in it."

Claire Woods (14) of Washington is defended by Jefferson's Jaidyn Dunn during the second half of the 'AA' girls state tournament semifinal at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, Friday, March 10, 2023.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

Brooklyn Harpe had 14 points to lead the Warriors (20-3), while Grace Peterson added 13. Taylor Thompson had five points, five rebounds, five steals and two assists.

For Jefferson, Dunn had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Cierra Watkins had 13 points and six boards. The Cavs shot just 29 percent in the game, and went 5-of-21 on 3-pointers.

"Their kids are really good and play really hard," Parish said of Jefferson. "We knew they were gonna make some shots and come back. We just had to tough it out. Would we have liked to make those free throws and sit back and catch our breath? Yeah, but we got it done and that's all that matters."

Matt Zimmer is a Sioux Falls native and longtime sports writer. He graduated from Washington High School where he played football, legion baseball and developed his lifelong love of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, he returned to Sioux Falls, began a long career in amateur baseball and started working as a sports freelancer. Zimmer was hired as a sport reporter at the Argus Leader in 2004, where he covered Sioux Falls high schools and colleges before moving to the South Dakota State University beat in 2014.
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