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Originally published Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 10:29 PM

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Mount Rainier holds off Riverside, 78-73 | Girls Basketball

Kiana Gandy's late free throws helped the second-ranked Rams stay unbeaten as they improved to 19-0 by beating the No. 7 Ravens.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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AUBURN — Kiana Gandy wanted to be the one.

With Mount Rainier's perfect record at stake, Gandy felt she needed to step up and put down the crucial free throws. That's just what the senior forward did, sinking three of four in the final 29 seconds to clinch a 78-73 victory over Auburn Riverside Wednesday night and give the second-ranked Rams their first South Puget Sound League 4A North Division girls basketball title.

With the McPhee twins on the bench with five fouls and Mount Rainier protecting a five-point lead, coach Bob Bolam wondered who was willing to shoulder the pressure. Gandy didn't hesitate.

"At the timeout, he asked who wants to shoot free throws, and my hand shot up," she said. "I felt this was the best time to step up."

Mount Rainier (19-0, 15-0 league), in only its second year since moving to Class 4A, seemingly had this one well in hand with a 57-33 lead midway through the third quarter.

But No. 7 Auburn Riverside (15-2, 11-2) wouldn't go away. The Ravens, who had won 12 in a row since a 61-48 loss to Mount Rainier in early December, closed out the quarter on a 20-5 run, fueled by four three-pointers.

Rams point guard Jordan McPhee fouled out with 2:51 to play and Brittany followed with just inside a minute to go, finishing with 12 and 22 points, respectively.

A putback by Shantell Jackson with 29.5 seconds showing cut the Ravens' deficit to 75-70. Gandy then came through with her free throws, sandwiched around a Riverside miss, giving her 20 points. Karina Gee's three-pointer for the Ravens as the clock wound down closed the final gap.

Riverside coach Terry Johnson was pleased with the comeback, but disappointed with his team's lack of consistency.

"We did some good things, but we can't be that inconsistent with our focus and our effort against a team like that," he said.

The Ravens had five players in double figures — Erin Bang (15 points), Jalea Crump (14), Kendall Foster (13), Gee (12) and Ilona Synder (10).

Mount Rainier, which often wins games by 20 to 30 points, was coming off a nine-point win over Kentwood. Bolam said his team should benefit in the long run from the closer competition.

"We haven't been in a lot of tough games," he said. "Our team needed those to get ready for the playoffs."

While the Rams have just one regular-season game remaining, Auburn Riverside is in the midst of playing five games over seven days, climaxing with a key showdown against Kentwood on Monday.

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