TACOMA – It was important to send the right message.
The Bellevue High School girls basketball team wanted to put the rest of the state’s Class 3A teams on alert for the future.
Also, the Wolverines needed to attend to some unfinished business from last season.
Sophomore Shelby Cansler delivered a strong statement for next season as fifth-ranked Bellevue avenged last season’s defeat with a 70-61 decision over ninth-ranked Wilson of Tacoma to claim third place in the Class 3A state tournament on Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
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The 6-foot Cansler came through with a strong message on the court. Then, she made one giant statement off it after the strong showing, which was accented by the surprise return in the third quarter of head coach Leah Krautter, who delivered a baby boy three days ago.
“Our goal is to win state next year,” said Cansler, who riddled the Rams with 24 points, six rebounds, eight assists and three steals. “All of our underclassmen have been to state twice, and I feel like that helps a lot for the upcoming years.”
The Wolverines (23-7) matched the second-best finish in school history. They were fifth last season.
Bellevue lost to Wilson in last year’s third-place game, 51-30.
The pieces are in place for a big run in 2014-15 with the return of 6-foot post player Tatiana Streun, who will return as a junior after suffering an ACL injury seven months ago.
“We’re absolutely excited,” said Bellevue coach Noah Wulbert, who said Streun averaged 10 points and 12 rebounds as a freshman. “This is a fantastic program and always has been.”
Krautter said she and her husband listened to Thursday’s quarterfinal win and Friday’s 53-43 semifinal loss to Cleveland over the Internet from the hospital.
“My husband was talking about that being like [the scene] from the movie ‘Hoosiers,’ ” said Krautter, who joined the team at the end of the bench in the third quarter with her husband and newborn. “It was really tough to listen to both games and not be able to do anything about it.”
Violet Morrow led Wilson, which settled for fifth place, with 21 points and six rebounds. Freshman Josie Matz heated up late to finish with 14 points and four assists for the Rams (20-7).