Cleveland girls claim third crown in 5 years

todd.milles@thenewstribune.comMarch 9, 2014 

For much of the night, it had been a Seattle city shuffle at the state high school basketball championships in the Tacoma Dome.

And the last dance belonged to the Cleveland High School girls.

It wasn’t easy – Bishop Blanchet’s young players had grown up fast – but the veteran and top-ranked Eagles defended their Class 3A crown with a 54-45 victory Saturday night. The last school to win back-to-back 3A titles was Auburn Riverside in 2007-08.

The Eagles (27-2) are on quite a run, winning their third state championship in five seasons under coach Stephenie Wheeler Smith. In each title-game victory, the Eagles defeated a Metro League rival – Holy Names in 2010 (47-44 win), Seattle Prep last season (45-43 in overtime) and the upstart Braves (24-5).

Wheeler-Smith’s three state titles as coach are second-most in 3A behind Sandy Schneider’s five with Lakeside of Seattle.

Cleveland never trailed, but could never really run roughshod over the No. 5 Braves, who start two freshmen and a sophomore.

Makala Roper, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, and Myzhanique Ladd combined for 16 of the team’s 18 first-quarter points as the Eagles jumped out early, 18-12.

Blanchet’s Jadyn Bush, one of those talented ninth-graders, was the center of attention for the Eagles’ defense. A frustrated Bush picked up her third foul 3 minutes, 36 seconds into the second quarter and had to sit. Cleveland closed on a 9-5 run, capped by Jayde Christopher’s coast-to-coast layup with three seconds remaining to grab a 33-25 halftime lead.

Twice in the second half, the Braves cut it to a one-possession game – the last at 45-42 on Taylor Chambers’ runner in the lane with 4:28 to go. But they went scoreless the next 3:45.

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 @ManyHatsMilles

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