Dribbling Their Way to the Dome

The women’s team is ready for state.

Photos by Jefferson Ashby

Watching the Garfield varsity womens basketball team play is like watching a force of nature. As they play, you’ll see looks of concentration and determination on their faces, as they dribble, practice, run drills and work hard. An unstoppable force, they work tirelessly to overcome any opposition that stands in their way.
The team has had a shining season so far. Coming in as the reigning second place 3A team in the state, they currently have a 12-0 winning record, and seemed poised to keep that record up. Not only are they are undefeated in their league, but they’re also ranked eleventh in Washington. And this year, they’re ready to win state.
The team is no stranger to success. They made it all the way to the final round in state last year, but ended up falling to Gig Harbor by three points in a tight game. The loss was disappointing for the team, but it helped to shape their determination and motivation even more this season.
“[Last year] definitely impacted this year. I mean, even though we didn’t win, this year we’re more hungry, and we’re more determined to win this year,” Senior captain Sam Tolliver said.
Junior captain Dalayah Daniels has noticed that last year not only boosted the motivation and determination of the team, but also positively affected their playing styles.
“Everyone’s a lot smarter and everyone’s a lot more disciplined, and I think everyone wants to hold themselves more accountable. We all kinda play for each other, and not ourselves,” Daniels said.
That determination and tight playing style certainly seems to shine through in their record this year. Not only are they currently undefeated in their Metro Valley League, but they have the best record of all the Metro leagues, beating the top teams in both the Metro Mountain and Metro Sound Leagues.
It is not only a season of victory for the team, but also a season of transition, as the the program gained a new head coach, Marvin Hall. However, while it is Hall’s first year as head coach, he is no stranger to the program. He was the assistant coach last year, which allowed him to get to know the team and establish a good relationship with them, helping to ease a potentially rough transition. Daniels has noticed the easy shift as well.
“The transition has been smooth. [Hall] has been in some of our lives for a while anyway, but you know, just having him in the system last year was good, because he was able to see what we’d already worked on and what we needed to work on,” Daniels said.
Additionally, the team chemistry this year has been noticeably strong, causing positive attitudes throughout the team, and leading them to being close on and off the court. Daniels has noticed a marked improvement in team dynamics this year, especially from last year.
“I think our team this year is a lot better than we were last year, just because, we all play together. Everyone’s having more confidence in themselves and in each other as well. You know, we’re sharing the ball a lot more than we were last year. We could share it a little bit more, but you know, it’s a process. We all definitely play a part,” Daniels said.
The team is undoubtedly filled with talented players with inspiring individual accomplishments. For example, Daniels is a five star recruit on ESPN, and ranked thirteenth in the nation from the class of 2020, according to ESPN. Tolliver made the all Metro-League first team last year, and recently scored her thousandth career point.
However, what really helps to distinguish the team is how well they blend all of their talents to come together. Tolliver seems to agree.
“We all bring something to the table, so that’s what makes us unstoppable,” Tolliver said.
That team strength, coupled with the determination and focus from last year’s season, have all combined to give the team their competitive edge, letting their hard work shine through to secure them victory after victory.
One of the biggest of those victories so far has been against West Seattle, one of the team’s biggest rivals, with Garfield winning only one game against them in the past three years. This year, however, with the Bulldogs continuing to channel the strength and determination that they’d been displaying all season and with the help of a loud and supportive student section, they managed to beat them 61-50.
“The West Seattle game was my favorite game because we were all on in that game, it was just a really packed game, the student section was loud, and so they got us going, and so we were all just hyped,” Tolliver said.
The season hasn’t been without losses, however. While they remain undefeated in all of the Metro Leagues, at the Holiday Swish tournament, which they played over winter break, they won their first game, but lost their next two games. However, Tolliver believes those losses actually proved to be beneficial in the long run.
“We’re kinda happy that we lost, just to see that we needed to work on other things more,” Tolliver said. “So, I’m actually pretty glad that we lost, so we didn’t have to lose a game in Washington, and we can keep going and keep increasing our wins.”
The team seemed to identify any problem areas from the tournament quickly and accurately, managing to turn the tide back around to win the next four games, supporting Tolliver’s point, and putting them back on track.
The group’s undefeated status in league play has them in high hopes for the rest of the season and puts them in a good place to make their way back to the Tacoma Dome this season.
“I’m feeling really confident this year, especially with this team, that we’re just gonna be undefeated, go to state, win that, and get a ring,” Tolliver said. “Gotta get that ring—it’s ring season.”
The team’s determination to make it back to the Dome can be seen everywhere from their work ethic to their motto.
“Our saying is, ‘We have unfinished business’,” Tolliver said. “Since we lost last year, and we want to prove to everyone that we can actually win it this year.”
So far, the team is certainly living up to that motto, and seems primed to make this season the one where they finally finish their business.