Makayla Roper and Myzhanique Ladd keyed a 20-4 run by the Eagles that put them in command in a win over the state's top-ranked Class 3A girls team.
The Cleveland girls basketball team has played in only three close games this season, all in the first week of the season.
In more than six weeks since, the Eagles’ closest win was by 15 points. But at the King Holiday Hoopfest on Monday at Brougham Pavilion, Cleveland faced perhaps its biggest test in Wilson of Tacoma, the state’s top-ranked Class 3A team.
“We haven’t played in a close game in so long that you always kind of wonder, ‘How are we going to play?’ ” Cleveland coach Stephenie Wheeler-Smith said.
The third-ranked Eagles (14-2) answered their coach’s question with a hard-fought 60-53 win. Cleveland used a 20-4 run in the second and third quarters to pull away, building a lead as large as 16.
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Makayla Roper and Myzhanique Ladd combined for nine points during the run, and Ladd’s layup gave Cleveland a 56-40 lead with five minutes left in the game.
“The punches in the second and third quarter really knocked them out and let us hang on at the end,” Wheeler-Smith said.
Indeed, Wilson charged back, using a 13-0 run to get to within three points with 50 seconds left. Cleveland went nearly five minutes without scoring in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles never let Wilson get closer than three.
Roper sealed the victory with two free throws that extended Cleveland’s lead to 59-53 with 19 seconds left. She finished with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
“Makayla came and shot lights out,” Wheeler-Smith said.
Ladd added 11 points, and Alexia Mefi had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Cleveland.