ELLENSBURG, Wash. — A defensive struggle turned into a wild game of who could take the last shot in Saturday's CWAC semifinal at Nicholson Pavilion.
No. 3 seed Prosser appeared to finally be able to celebrate knocking off No. 2 East Valley after Ellie Maljaars hit a layup with 1.8 seconds remaining and the buzzer sounded as the ball dribbled out of bounds on the ensuing possession. But referees decided to put half a second back on the clock, giving Ashlynn Sylve just enough time to hit an improbable game-winner to beat Prosser for the third time this season.
"I just knew I had to get what we needed to get done to get that last play and make that shot," Sylve said. "I believed in my teammates, they were going to do it, so I had to pull it out for them."
Jaelynn Livingston's pass from well behind halfcourt hit Sylve in stride as she jumped up, caught the ball, then went back up to quickly release the ball off the glass. That capped off an impressive performance from the junior, who hit 10-of-12 free throws and scored a game-high 20 points to go with nine rebounds.
Coach Robi Raab drew up two different plays during a timeout before the final inbounds pass. But he needed to know if Livingston, who scored five of her eight points in the fourth quarter, had the required arm strength.
"I said, 'can you throw the ball that far?'" Raab said. "She goes, 'I can today, coach.'"
He offered plenty of praise and respect for Prosser, which lost two regular season games to East Valley by a combined nine points. The lead changed seven times in a hectic last quarter, including five times in the final 1:13.
Alexis Harris scored seven of her 13 points in those last eight minutes to lead a balanced offensive attack, which ranks second in the season behind unbeaten Ellensburg this season. But East Valley's matchup zone largely stifled Prosser for the first three quarters, two of which ended with 3-pointers by Mustangs sophomore Leila Taylor.
The Red Devils' ranked second in scoring defense behind Ellensburg, and they forced 17 turnovers while holding the Mustangs well below their season average. Foul trouble for starters Bryana Barry and Haiden Harrington left East Valley without some of its offensive firepower, so Sylve took charge by pushing the ball frequently in transition.
"That really got me going in the first half," Sylve said. "I wasn't attacking as much I knew we needed to attack more for us to get the W."
Karina Hibbitt added 11 points, including a go-ahead layup with 37 seconds left after Harris put Prosser in front 46-45. The Mustangs tried their best to wait for the last shot and Gabby Olivarez fired a hard pass across the lane to Maljaars, who released the ball quickly to beat a closing defender.
Sylve said she felt nearly ready to break down when it looked like East Valley would lose the hard-fought game, but she remained confident when East Valley acquired new life. Prosser officially protested whether the final shot beat the buzzer, but Raab finally joined his team to celebrate when an assistant showed him the official rule stating only three-tenths of a second are required for a player to catch and shoot.
Raab praised his team's leadership and some key minutes off the bench from Monica Arenas, who even converted a three-point play to end a long first-quarter scoring drought for the Red Devils. They clinched a spot in Regionals and advanced to next Saturday's CWAC title game against Ellensburg.
Prosser will try to bounce back in a loser-out game against Grandview next Tuesday at the SunDome.
PROSSER — Bestebreur 0, Groeneveld 3, Maljaars 8, Cortes 0, Wright 6, Taylor 7, Alexis Harris 13, Olivarez 8, Hull 3. Totals 17-53 8-13 48.
EAST VALLEY —Harrington 4, Prince 0, Livingston 8, Wright 0, Karina Hibbitt 11, Bryana Barry 3, Arenas 3, Ashlynn Sylve 20. Totals 13-54 17-21 49.
3-point goals: Prosser 6-20 (Taylor 2-5, Olivarez 2-4, Groeneveld 1-2, Hull 1-2). East Valley 4-22 (Jaelynn Livingston 2-7, Hibbitt 2-9). Rebounds: Prosser 39 (Ellie Maljaars 6, Halle Wright 6), East Valley 41 (Sylve 9, Jaelynn Livingston 6). Turnovers: Prosser 17, East Valley 12. Steals: Prosser 3, East Valley 6. Fouls: Prosser 20, East Valley 16. Fouled out — Harrington, Barry, Wright.