TACOMA – They played so well.
And the scary thing about the top-ranked Cleveland Eagles is they can play even better.
That according to senior Alexia Mefi after her team crushed Lincoln of Tacoma 65-26 in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state girls basketball tournament Thursday at the Tacoma Dome.
“I say we’ve still got more work to do,” she said.
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Coach Stephenie Wheeler-Smith preaches perfection to her players at practice and the defending state champions strive to achieve it.
They were close at times Thursday – especially in a first quarter that saw them score the first 12 points and ultimately open up a 28-6 advantage.
Cleveland (25-2) plays No. 5 Bellevue (22-6) in a rematch of last year’s semifinal, which the Eagles won 53-42.
Bellevue held off No. 4 Sunnyside in another quarterfinal Thursday, 66-58, to earn the rematch. Cleveland also beat the Wolverines in the Sea-King District championship game less than two weeks ago, 77-49.
The Eagles, who have now won 51 straight games against in-state opponents, were their usual swarming selves on defense. The Abes (20-6) shot just 21.4 percent from the field and committed 20 turnovers.
“They’re fast, they’re really fast,” Lincoln coach Jamila Jones said.
Offensively, the Eagles shot 55.3 percent from the field. Senior guard Makala Roper, the MVP of last year’s tournament, hit 6 of 10 shots from the field, including 3 of 4 three-pointers, en route to a game-high 19 points.
Myzhanique “MyMy” Ladd had a nice line with nine points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals.
“We made it pretty easy today,” Wheeler-Smith said.
The only downside for Cleveland was the ankle sprain point guard Jayde Christopher suffered in the third quarter, forcing her to the bench with an ice pack. But Wheeler-Smith said it was a low-ankle sprain that should be fine.
Young Lincoln, in the tournament for the first time since 2006, will face Sunnyside (21-4) in a loser-out contest Friday at 12:15.
Bellevue 66, Sunnyside 58
Junior Mandy Steward poured in a career-high 32 points as the fifth-ranked Wolverines outran the Grizzlies at their own fast-paced game. Steward also overcame the cavernous shooting backdrop of the Tacoma Dome.
“We like to slow the ball down, so this was crazy,” Steward said. “I asked my coach (Noah Wulbert) to call a timeout in the first quarter, because I was tired. We got used to it. When we were warming up, I didn’t hit one shot, and I was really stressed out.
“Once I hit the first two (shots), I thought, ‘This is not bad. I can keep doing it.’ It’s all mental in (the Tacoma Dome).”
Bellevue built a 10-point lead early in the third quarter, but Sunnyside battled back and tied the game twice in the fourth quarter at 46-46 and 50-50, the last time with 4:45 left in the game.
Steward, who hit 10 of 17 field goals including 5 of 7 on three-pointers, gave Bellevue the lead for good at 52-50 on a jumper with 4:32 to go and then she stretched the lead to 55-51 on a three-pointer with 3:50 showing. Steward also had seven rebounds.
Sunnyside was within 57-55 on Emilee Maldonado’s two free throws with 2:10 remaining and then within 59-57 on Jordan Rodriguez’s putback at the 1:44 mark.
Rodriguez led the Grizzlies with 15 points and Maldonado added 13.
The Wolverines played without head coach Leah Krautter, who gave birth Thursday at 12:30 p.m. to her first child. Krautter, the Wolverines’ third-year coach, delivered a baby boy, Emmett Payne, five hours before her team delivered a berth in the state semifinals.
“We finally got a picture (of the baby) right before the game started, and we’d been begging for them,” said Bellevue assistant Noah Wulbert, who led the team in Krautter’s absence. “She’s been talking about coming back, but I don’t think so. She’s desperate to come here, so we’ll see how it plays out.”
Bishop Blanchet 50, University 45
Jadyn Bush went back to the basics.
And behind her 10 fourth-quarter points, Bishop Blanchet is back in the semifinals of the Class 3A state girls basketball tournament for the first time since 2001.
After a slow start, the sixth-ranked Braves came from behind to beat upstart University of Spokane Thursday, 50-45.
Blanchet (23-4) plays at 9 p.m. Friday against No. 8 Wilson of Tacoma (20-5). The Rams prevented a quarterfinal sweep by Sea-King District teams by beating Mercer Island, 58-33.
Bush, a 5-foot-11 freshman, made just 2 of 6 shots in the first half and the Braves shot just a meager 20.7 percent from the field. They trailed by eight going into the final period before Bush settled down and ignited a 14-2.
“It’s a big dome and there’s bright lights, but at the end of the day it’s the same game, it’s basketball,” she said.
Bush finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds (seven on the offensive end), six blocks and three steals. She hit 3 of 4 free throws in the final 16.5 seconds to seal the victory, coming up with a steal after the one miss.
Fellow frosh Taylor Chambers was also clutch with 15 points, hitting 3 of 7 three-pointers. And her defense on U-Hi guard Emma Kennedy was key, holding her to just four points.
“Taylor was awesome sticking with that girl,” coach Bryan Willison said. “That’s what won us the game was our defense.”
The Titans (10-15), who owe the majority of their losses to Class 4A teams, appeared primed for the upset.
“They were playing with house money,” Willison said. “I think our kids were a little nervous about things.”
University led 41-36 on a basket by Kennedy with 5:56 to play, then didn’t score again until Ashley Woods hit a driving basket with 38 seconds to play. She finished with a team-high nine points along with 11 rebounds.
U-Hi plays Mercer Island (16-11) at 2 p.m. Friday in an elimination game.
Wilson 58, Mercer Island 33
The Islanders couldn’t overcome 12.7 percent shooting from the floor, a 63-40 rebounding disadvantage and 18 turnovers in the school’s third state quarterfinal appearance.
Despite all that, Mercer Island crept within 24-21 on Jessica Blakeslee’s three-pointer with 4:02 showing on the clock in the third quarter. But Wilson freshman Josie Matz tallied 10 consecutive points and the Rams spurted to a 15-0 run to take control.
Correspondent Matt Massey contributed to this report