Cleveland coach Stephenie Wheeler-Smith didn't think much about celebrating after Friday's 43-40 girls basketball win against Seattle Prep...
Cleveland coach Stephenie Wheeler-Smith didn’t think much about celebrating after Friday’s 43-40 girls basketball win against Seattle Prep.
Sure, it came in the Metro League championship game, against a fourth-ranked Prep team that pushed Cleveland earlier this season. But Wheeler-Smith and her second-ranked Eagles have their eyes on a bigger prize: a state championship.
“Just one step closer to the big goal. That’s about it,” said Wheeler-Smith, whose team lost to Franklin in the Metro title game last year.
Cleveland (20-2) has won 19 straight. The Eagles haven’t lost since Dec. 1, and haven’t lost to an in-state team all season.
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But Seattle Prep, with its slower pace, has proved to be one of the few teams capable of giving the Eagles fits.
Using their full-court press, Cleveland forced Prep (18-4) into 20 turnovers and at times controlled the game’s tempo. But Prep managed to hang around.
Jayde Christopher’s layup late in the third quarter gave Cleveland a nine-point led, the largest of the night, but Prep rallied.
Mary Ann Santucci’s layup got the Panthers within three points with 2:46 left, but they scored just two more.
Cleveland scored only seven points in the fourth quarter, but buckled down on defense.
“We didn’t shoot well and weren’t bouncy to the ball like we normally are,” Wheeler-Smith said. “But we did what we had to do: We played defense and dug down and figured out how to make buckets.”
Prep’s comeback bid took a big hit when senior forward Michaela Carew went down with an ankle injury with 5:51 remaining. She had to be helped off the court and didn’t return. Carew scored 15 points before her injury, including eight in the third quarter.
“To not have that inside presence that last six minutes was big,” Prep coach Michelle Hall said. “It kind of took a little wind out of our sails, but we still hung in there. But hand it to Cleveland. They’re a good team.”
Alexia Mefi and Makayla Roper each scored 15 for Cleveland.
Both teams advance to the Sea-King 3A District tournament. Seattle Prep plays Liberty or Holy Names at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Bellevue College. Cleveland meets Juanita or Bainbridge at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Chief Sealth.