Bellarmine Girls Basketball robbed of chance to play for state title

Terrible call at buzzer leads to heartbreaking loss 

Eastlake prepares to make game-winning basket as time expires. (Photo courtesy of WIAAWA Instagram)

Fresh off an upset win over number 6 seed Davis, the 11th seed Lions faced off against the 4th seed Eastlake Wolves, a team that had finished with a dominant 12-1 league record and were riding high after defeating the Sumner Spartans. Although the Lions were the much lower seed, it was anticipated that the two teams would provide an eventful and competitive matchup, and it certainly did.

The Lions trailed 18-9 after the first quarter. The Wolves had come out in a zone defense, and the Lions struggled to find ways to score in the first half. On the other end of the court, Eastlake was able to find success from the three-point stripe, taking advantage of the Lions’ 1-2-2 zone. 

To open the second quarter, the Lions switched back to man defense and found much more success stopping Eastlake’s shooters, but were still struggling to rebound defensively. The rebounding struggles were continuous throughout the game, but the Lions were able to get it going on offense to cut the lead to five by halftime, trailing 30-25 going into the break. Like she has all season, standout sophomore Keiara Curtis carried the offensive load for the Lions, hitting a variety of different floaters while driving to the basket and also hitting her shots from beyond the arc.

The Lions came out of halftime rejuvenated and full of energy, and continued to cut into the deficit. Junior Kiara Stone hit a crucial three in the third, along with 6th man Keira Leingang making her presence felt both on the defensive end of the court and by converting highly contested layups. Despite taking the lead multiple times throughout the quarter, the Wolves led by one point going into the decisive fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth contest, as neither team was able to pull away. Despite having Keiara Curtis going on a scoring rampage and senior center Taylor Teeple hitting multiple key shots, the Lions were struggling to find any sort of presence down low to rebound on the defensive end. The Wolves were able to stay in the game by capitalizing on second-chance opportunities, and by forcing key Lions players into foul trouble. With four minutes left in the game, guard Jada Travis received her fifth and final foul, resulting in her ejection from the game. The short-handed Lions were forced to insert Keira Leingang back into the game, creating a lineup that featured three bigs and only 2 guards. 

With under a minute left in the contest, senior Taylor Teeple converted a three that gave the lions the lead, but the Wolves were able to tie the game up. With 19 seconds left on the clock, the Lions were given one last opportunity to break the tie but unfortunately failed to do so, sending the game into overtime.

Just like the majority of the game, overtime was back and forth between both teams. Lions bigs Teeple and Wiggins both received the fourth fouls and were forced to play cautiously to not be disqualified from the game. With just under 40 seconds left in the period, junior Kiara Stone hit a difficult shot that put the Lions up 1, and then quickly stole the inbounds pass and gave the Lions possession. Ultimately, they received a shot clock violation but were able to dwindle the game clock down to less than eight seconds. The Wolves attempted to pass the ball in, but Teeple came up with a crucial steal to give the Lions the ball with under 6 seconds remaining. The Lions passed the ball to Curtis who was eventually fouled, leaving 1.4 seconds remaining on the clock with Curtis at the line. 

Keiara Curtis ’25 at the line to shoot her free-throws (Photo courtesy of WIAAWA Instagram)

Eastlake fans were distraught, and the Bellarmine student section had started a chant proclaiming their victory and celebrating moving onto the semifinals. Curtis, who had been stellar from the line all night, missed her first free throw and the Wolves rebounded it. They pushed the ball up-court and Ava Schmidt, who had been stellar for the Wolves all night. As the clock expired, she drained a deep three to give the Wolves a one-point victory. 

Stunned Bellarmine fans stood in shock, watching as the Eastlake students celebrated with their team. Players and coaches wondered the same thing as everyone else. Did the shot get off before the clock expired? The table said no, and the refs were sent into a huddle. After a brief discussion, the referees overruled the decision and proclaimed the shot was good. Game over. Wolves win.

Photo evidence clearly shows this was the wrong decision. The ball had not yet left Schmidt’s hands when the clock reached 0.0, something which was clear to reporters, fans, the scoreboard operators, and photographers alike, but somehow the referees missed that and allowed a tremendously close game to go the wrong way. 

The clock clearly shows 0.0, and the basketball has not left the hands of Eastlake’s player. (Photo courtesy of WIAAWA and illustration by Levi Coovert)

It is a sad reality that this decision results in the end of the Lions’ quest for the state title. To work so hard for something you love, to come back from a difficult deficit, fight your way to being one second away from victory, and to watch it be stolen away from you on a shot that at any higher level would have been immediately reversed with a replay review cannot be a good feeling. For the pair of seniors on the team, Taylor Teeple and Gabi Miller, it would be the last game that their dream of winning state was still possible. That dream should still be alive tonight. It’s 2023, and the WIAA seems to think we are living in the stone age! Replay review should not be difficult to implement when you have an official filming crew that is filming the game.

The controversy sparked by allowing the basket has led to an uproar of upset fans on social media. The Bellarmine faithful have been trying to get the WIAA to look at the call by tagging them and reaching out online. Even Tacoma News Tribune sports writer Jon Manley spoke out against the call, saying “Light is above the backboard and triple zeroes on the clock. Yikes.” Unfortunately, the WIAA does not have a rule allowing them to change the score of the game in retrospect but this has also angered fans. Many believe that if suspensions can be reverted (just look to the recent Stadium high school basketball incident) so should scores of games if the evidence is clear enough and in this case it certainly is (see image above). 

A popular account followed by over 400 Bellarmine fans, @bprepsnrs, still holds onto hope saying “Anything is reversible if you make it reversible.” The Lions certainly are making it hard for the WIAA to completely ignore the situation but only time will tell if anything changes. Hopefully if anything, it will help convince the WIAA to consider making changes to their current replay review rules in future tournaments. 

The Lions will still have at least one game left this year with the chance to play on Saturday with a win. The Lions face off tomorrow, Friday, March 3, at 12:15 p.m. against the Emerald Ridge Jaguars, a team that has beaten them twice this season. Both games were competitive, in which the Lions came up just short losing by a combined 10 points in the two games. The Lions will need to control the boards tomorrow if they want to come away with a win as in both affairs the Jaguars controlled the rebounds. It is also worth noting the Jaguars ended the Bellarmine Boys’ basketball season in overtime earlier this year.  

The Lions can still place 4th in state if they win out, which would in most cases be a sweet note to go out on but the heartbreaking call by the referees will always beg the question “what if?” The Lions and their fans will have to live with the season effectively coming to an end because of a terrible call. No one wants that. If you are a fan of the sport of basketball you want the team who deserves to win to come out on top. No one wants the game to end on a bad call. Not the players, fans, referees, and not even the WIAA. Would the Lions be holding the trophy if the correct call was made? No one will ever know but that possibility was robbed. One of the worst feelings in the world is wondering what could have been.