Hazen girls fall to Bellevue in regular season finale

Highlanders sit in sixth place and await the KingCo Tournament.

Hazen High School’s road to the end of the girls basketball season has been a bumpy one. After going on a four-game win streak in early January, it looked like the Highlanders were going to make a push and cause some problems for teams in KingCo.

But what happened after that win streak was a harsh reality for a Hazen team that had already gone through so much in one high school season.

Hazen stumbled across the finish line over the last five games of the season, winning just one of their last five contests. The Highlanders were outscored by an average of 19.5 points in the four losses.

At the start of the year, Hazen was thrown a curveball when JV Head Coach and varsity assistant Shannon Rance took over the program from Bruce Cooper, who was in his first season as a head coach last season.

It was her first season as a basketball head coach. Rance has learned more than she ever imagined in the position.

“I’ve learned a lot. It’s not anything I ever saw myself doing. I’m a JV coach,” Rance said.

Having a supportive staff is something that has helped Rance along the way.

“It definitely was a lot of put together. Luckily, I have a really good support staff with me. We’re constantly bouncing ideas off of each other and coming up with adjustments. It has been really helpful,” Rance added.

Hazen’s last regular season game Jan. 26 against Bellevue ended in a 67-48 defeat, but the night was bigger than the game on the court. It was about honoring the three seniors on the Highlanders’ roster.

“They’re such a good group of seniors and they’re great leaders of our team. They bring everybody together. They’ll be hard ones to replace,” Rance said.

She immediately took back her comments to talk about how good and meaningful this group of three seniors are: “Actually, they probably aren’t replaceable since they all played such a big role on our team,” Rance said.

Early on against Bellevue, Hazen struggled to get going offensively, scoring just eight points in the first quarter. But in the second, Allie Harris got going off the bench, scoring six points to gain some momentum for the Highlanders. Harris is usually in the starting five, but due to senior night, she had to come off the bench and was ready for it.

“That’s one thing I love about these girls is it doesn’t matter (if they come off the bench). They don’t get down on each other, like ‘Ugh she took my spot.’ They’re always there to encourage and pick each other up,” Rance said.

It took a half for Weber State University signee Dakota Nap to get going, but she did play a huge role in a second half run for the Highlanders.

After halftime, Hazen was down 23-37, but a solid run of play from Nap cut the 20-point Wolverine lead to 11 in the third quarter.

“That is one thing I will say about this team. There has never been a game where they have given up. No matter if we’re not doing well, like if we can’t buy a bucket or rotating on defense, they never quit. They’ll play though anything,” Rance said.

Despite only scoring seven points in the first half, Nap went off for 10 in the third quarter. Nap sets the example of what Rance wants a Hazen girls basketball player to look like.

“She’s willing to do whatever we ask of her. She’ll go inside or stay outside… That willingness to be flexible,” Rance said.

That 11-point margin was the closest the Highlanders ever got to the Wolverines in the Friday night game. In the final quarter of the game, Hazen was outscored 15-11 to close out the game.

The Highlanders will be the lowest seed in the KingCo Tournament starting Feb. 3 and take on the third seed, which could be Liberty or Juanita in the first round.