Aqeelah Williams doesn’t want to talk about last season.
She doesn’t want to rehash her time at Mount Rainier High School, playing next to Stanford-bound Brittany McPhee – and ultimately playing in the Class 4A state girls basketball championship game, losing to Gonzaga Prep.
But get her on the topic of her new school – two-time defending 3A champion Cleveland – and Williams is a regular chitchat, at least as much as her soft-spoken nature will allow her.
She also is the hit-or-miss X-factor for the Eagles. And lately, she has been a huge factor, like Friday afternoon in the 3A semifinals.
The 5-foot-10 guard scored 25 points, including three consecutive 3-pointers to start the fourth quarter, and the fifth-ranked Eagles walloped No. 8 Bishop Blanchet, 55-48, in the Tacoma Dome.
Cleveland (19-8) becomes the first school to play in three consecutive 3A title games – outside of Chief Sealth (2005-07), which had to vacate its two state championships because of recruiting violations.
The Eagles will meet top-ranked Lynnwood at 3 p.m. for the 3A title.
Joyce Harrell added 13 points. After she left the game with 3 1/2 minutes to go in the third quarter with a cramp, the Braves went on an 11-1 run to take their first lead of the game.
But Williams ignited a fourth quarter-long scoring spree by knocking down three 3-pointers in the first 1:12.
“I woke up,” Williams said.
The last one was from deep in the right corner.
“She shot us out of (the tournament),” Blanchet coach Bryan Willison said.
And it just snowballing from then on. Cleveland scored on its first seven possessions – and 11 of its first 12.
“It just takes us a minute,” Harrell said, “to get on the same page.”
Perhaps Harrell’s return was of equally impact. With 90 seconds to go, she grabbed an errant Blanchet pass near the 3-point line and went coast to coast – untouched – for an easy layin, and the Eagles led 52-44.
It’s now in back-to-back games that Williams has owned the fourth quarter. She had all of her 12 points Thursday against Wilson in the final 10 minutes.
And she proved she could be a stopper, too – in post-game media sessions. When last season’s 4A title game was mentioned, he brushed it off – politely, of course.
“Last year was last year,” she said, quietly.
Added Harrell: “Here, she gets to play how she wants to.”