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Football season is over, but that doesn’t mean area coaches are done using the Seahawks as an example.

“You watched the Seahawks beat Denver, right? Defense wins games,” said Cleveland coach Stephenie Wheeler-Smith after the Eagles dismantled Bishop Blanchet in the Metro League tournament championship game on Friday, 65-50.

It wasn’t just that Cleveland (20-2) played lockdown defense, but that it forced the Braves (19-3) into mistake after mistake after mistake. Bishop Blanchet committed 29 turnovers, effectively ending any chance to grab the Metro title.

But Wheeler-Smith doesn’t see Cleveland, ranked No. 1 in state in 3A, as the Metro League Seahawks.

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“We’re the Cleveland Eagles,” she said.

Cleveland basketball is predicated on pressure defense and taking care of the basketball. Seems simple enough, but the Eagles saw a comfortable 41-29 halftime lead dwindle in the third quarter, as No. 3 Bishop Blanchet came out of intermission on an 8-2 run.

With its offense struggling, Cleveland kept the intensity on the defensive half, employing a full-court trap that made it difficult for the Braves to initiate their offense. The Eagles eventually found a bit of offense and their lead was never in question during the final quarter.

Makala Roper led Cleveland with 19 points, and Jayde Christopher added 12. Freshman Taylor Chambers had 20 points for Bishop Blanchet. Both teams get first-round byes in next week’s district tournament.

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