Avalanche triumphs at P.A. hoops tourney

Home court? They take it, and the big trophy too.

The Olympic Avalanche, a select basketball team of seventh- and eighth-grade girls from across the Olympic Peninsula, went 3-1 to take the eighth-grade division championship at the 2008 Holiday Hoops Tourney in Port Angeles last weekend.

Sequim's Haleigh Harrison sank two free throws with little time left as the Avalanche topped the Grays Harbor Storm 37-35 in the championship game Dec. 14, capping a comeback that saw Olympic resurrected from an 11-point deficit.

The Avalanche opened the tourney with a 51-13 drubbing of Gig Harbor. Lauren Aguirre had 12 points, 10 rebounds and four steals while Krissy Marvelle added 11 points. Olympic out-rebounded Gig Harbor 40-16.

In round two, the Avalanche fell behind to Grays Harbor by 11 points, then took a late two-point lead before eventually falling 45-40. Krista Johnson had 15 points and seven steals for the Avalanche while Mariah Frazier chipped in with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

"We faded down the stretch," coach Joe Marvelle said.

In the third-round semifinal game, the Avalanche bowled over the Blue Ox team from Gig Harbor once again, winning 39-14. Frazier had 12 points and six steals while Harrison added nine points. Olympic once again held the

advantage, out-rebounding the Blue Ox 40-20.

That set up a rematch of Olympic and Grays Harbor in the championship. The Storm, behind a strong game from Maureen Donovan (22 points) took an early 20-9 lead, finding space in the Avalanche zone for open shots.

"We played well but could not score," Marvelle said. "Everything (Grays Harbor) threw up went in."

The Avalanche shifted back to man-to-man defense and chipped away at the Storm lead, getting solid defense on Donovan from Shayla Norman.

When Sequim's Anna Mittman hit a put-back with 1:30 remaining in the game, it gave the Avalanche a 35-34 lead. After a free throw by Grays Harbor tied it at 35 apiece, Harrison was fouled and calmly sank two clutch free throws with 11 seconds left.

Grays Harbor had one final chance to tie the game and force overtime but Harrison once again came up big, blocking their final shot attempt.

Harrison finished with six points and six rebounds while Alexis Besand, a Sequim seventh-grader, added six points and eight rebounds.

"Haleigh and Alexis were absolutely huge for us down the stretch in second half," Marvelle said. "They played tough defense and hit huge buckets for us. This was one of the best youth basketball games I've ever seen and an amazing comeback and against an elite team in a championship game."

The Olympic Avalanche plays again in Port Angeles Jan. 17-18 at the President's Day Tourney.

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