Two-time defending 4A-II girls basketball state champion Phoenix Washington started its quest for a third title by defeating Queen Creek 55-42 Friday night in a state tournament quarterfinal game at Washington marred by a couple of ejections and some controversial calls.
Olivia Major led Washington (26-3) with 22 points, while Queen Creek's Kallie Hubbard led the Bulldogs (22-7) with 12 points.
The Rams will meet Chandler Seton Catholic in the semifinals Wednesday at Jobing.com Arena.
The physical nature of the game turned ugly in the second half, resulting in a number of fouls on the Rams, and then an incident that changed the competitive nature of the contest.
Washington's Aracely Ramirez was ejected with 6:59 left in the game after teammate Breauna Russell fell to the floor hard in what the Rams thought was a foul by a Bulldog player during a scramble for a rebound.
Ramirez, reacting to seeing her teammate on the floor in pain, pushed a Queen Creek player, but was restrained before it went any further.
It was enough to merit the technical and ejection, according to officials.
A Washington fan was also ejected after he raced to the floor to protest the physical play.
"I think it got a little out of hand," said Washington coach Ty Bauer of the contact in the second half. "We're a little smaller than they are, and you can obviously tell we took a battering.
"My girl (Russell) went down twice and was smart enough and has been a part of two titles to not retaliate."
Russell was fouled hard at the close of the game, resulting in a technical on Queen Creek's Hubbard.
A Phoenix police officer stood in between the two teams at the end, but both teams were civil with each other despite some additional heated exchanges in the final minutes.
Washington, a No. 2 seed in the tournament, got out to a 16-2 start due to nine Bulldog turnovers and Queen Creek shooting 1 of 9 in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs managed to steady their offense in the second quarter and the first couple of minutes of the third, cutting the Rams' lead to 31-26.
However, the Rams went on another 16-2 run to put the game out of reach.
The Bulldogs' shooting woes were especially noticeable at the free-throw line, where Queen Creek was 7 of 17.
Despite the loss, first-year coach Brett Hudson was pleased with the season.
"I'm really proud of this group of girls," he said.
"We lost six seniors and there were not a lot of expectations, but there we were with a good team like Washington."