Washington powers past Pierre for second Class AA girls state title in three years

Warriors use defense, fast break to coast to the championship

The Washington Warriors girls basketball team celebrates its 'AA' state championship Saturday, March 11, 2023 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. The Warriors beat Pierre 54-36 to win the title.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

SIOUX FALLS — For the second time in three years, the Washington Warriors are Class AA girls basketball state champions, as the top-seed capped off an impressive run through the tournament by throttling 2nd-seeded Pierre 54-36 at the Sanford Pentagon in a game most expected to be a fiercely competitive battle.

It was, for about a quarter and a half.

Washington scored the final seven points of the second quarter to take an 11-point lead into halftime, then just kept building on that lead in the second half, eventually going up by as much as 21 points on their way to their sixth 'AA' girls title since 2008.

As the top seed, the Warriors were the favorites, but that was the case last year, too, and they were upset in the first round by Jefferson. That drove them all season, and especially in this tournament, as Washington avenged that loss in the semis and then impressively dispatching a Pierre team that had certainly looked capable of hoisting the trophy.

Pierre's Aleise Christopherson (3) looks to pass while Washington's Brooklyn Harpe (34) defends for the Warriors in the 'AA' girls state championship game, Saturday, March 11, 2023 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

"It wasn't like it was a 'revenge year', but we really wanted to get it back," said Washington's Hannah Harpe, who had four points, six rebounds, five assists and two blocks to aid the win. "We could've won it last year but we didn't step up in big moments. This time, we stepped up in those moments."


The earliest of those moments came late in the second. Pierre started strong, taking an early 7-2 lead before Washington fought back to tie it up 11-11 after one. They continued to trade baskets until late in the second, when the Warriors showed signs of separating themselves. They were already feeling good when they got up 29-20, but when Pierre missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with six seconds left and Washington quickly went down and found Taylor Thompson for a buzzer-beating jumper at the horn to make it 31-20, the momentum was clearly with the orange and black.

"That felt awesome — that was our moment," said Brooklyn Harpe, who had 21 points to lead all scorers. "We know teams can come back on us, but we got that moment and we were like, 'Now, it's time to build our lead.'"

Coach Jamie Parish agreed. The Warriors were just starting to put it together near the end of the half. They just sustained their control from there.

"We started to figure out what they were doing, made some adjustments that made it tougher for (Pierre) to score," Parish said. "And then our kids' athleticism just took over. We got out in transition, got some offensive rebounds and just did some little things."

Pierre's Remington Price looks to pass in the second quarter of the 'AA' girls state championship game against Washington on Saturday, March 11, 2023 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

Indeed, the Warriors outscored the Governors 11-0 on the break and 19-2 off turnovers. That was only exacerbated by a whopping 40-12 edge in points in the paint. Pierre got 12 points from Ryann Barry, who hit three 3s, and Reese Terwilliger had seven points and seven boards, but the Govs (20-4) shot just 26 percent for the game.

"One thing we rely on is our length," said Hannah Harpe. "We keep our hands up. It's a lot harder to get a shot off when you've got a hand in your face. Pierre is a good shooting team and we worked hard to make sure they didn't have open shots."

Grace Peterson had 13 points and six rebounds for Washington (21-3), while Taryn Larson had five points and five rebounds and Alexus Motley played a key role off the bench with five points, seven rebounds and three assists.

The Washington bench celebrates a Warrior basket in the first half of the 'AA' girls state championship game Saturday, March 11, 2023 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

"Defensively, we've been good all year long, but we've really started to figure some things out offensively since Valentine's Day," Parish said. "I could not be more proud of the way they played tonight. The way they defended, they shared the ball, made hustle plays — we're lucky to have this group of kids."


2023 Class AA girls all-tournament team
Brooklyn Harpe, Washington
Grace Peterson, Washington
Remington Price, Pierre
Reese Terwilliger, Pierre
Jadyn Dunn, Jefferson
Cierra Watkins, Jefferson
Kayleigh Hybertson, Harrisburg
Mahli Abdouch, O'Gorman
Luci Moore, O'Gorman
Jaida Young, Watertown
Isabell Higgins, Rapid City Stevens
Sawyer Stoebner, Mitchell
Spirit of Su: Cierra Watkins, Jefferson
Spirt of Six: Rapid City Stevens

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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