Their bond runs deep.
You’ll see the connection between them on the court at this week’s Class 3A state girls basketball tournament, but the link goes far beyond the sport.
Makala Roper and Myzhanique “MyMy” Ladd are the twin terrors of the Cleveland High School team favored to win a second straight championship Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
And though they are not sisters, they seem to share that rare awareness of one another during the game.
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“MyMy can be bee-lining it to the hole, and never look to the right or to the left and out of the corner of her eye see Roper and give her the ball,” coach Stephenie Wheeler-Smith said. “Roper always catches MyMy cutting to the paint and is always looking for her. They do have an innate ability of feeling each other.”
That’s what can happen when you’ve played together since fourth grade. They finish each other’s sentences as well as they finish shots. The friendship brings added value to their team’s success. They play for each other, and the rest of the team, which they consider a family.
And that has been an integral part of the program’s success.
With each victory — and Cleveland’s win streak has climbed to 50 against in-state opponents — comes mounting expectations and pressure. The Eagles bear the weight together.
“We don’t listen to what everybody else says,” Ladd said. “We focus on who’s in the circle and who’s around us, because those are the people we play for every day. We know that whoever we go onto the court with, those are people we can depend on to pick us up when we’re down or look to for encouragement, because as a team we are family.”
Roper and Ladd are among the four seniors who never lost a home game. While they typically share the spotlight, they have a great appreciation of their fellow seniors, Alexia Mefi and Asiyah Davis. Mefi is relentless inside and Davis has a knack for hitting key shots — like the winner in last year’s title game.
“She’s big-bucket Davis!” Ladd said. “AD all day.”
She calls Mefi the team’s Marshawn Lynch.
“She’s always on Beast Mode,” Ladd said.
Get Ladd and Roper talking about each other, how they are alike and different, and it’s entertaining.
“Different? She can shoot, that’s sniper,” Ladd said, referring to the nickname opposing coaches gave Roper last year for her deadly three-pointers.
“MyMy’s fast — she’s got those Speedy Gonzales feet,” Roper said.
“I hate that — she’s always going ‘Beep! Beep!’ ” Ladd said with an eye roll.
“We both work hard and we do whatever it takes to win,” Roper said.
Both have college scholarships in hand — Roper with the University of California at Santa Barbara and Ladd with San Jose State — and have similar skill sets.
But the two are “totally different” personality-wise, according to Wheeler-Smith.
“MyMy is a vocal leader, and Makala is a quiet player who speaks up when she needs to,” she said. “MyMy is hilarious with all of her dancing and singing … Makala has a quirky sense of humor.”
Yet they share a passion for the sport.
“They’re fierce competitors” Wheeler-Smith said.
Bishop Blanchet coach Bryan Willison said he has seen enough of the two.
“They’ve been a pain in my butt for four years,” he said. “They’re really intense kids. They’ve got all of the athleticism in the world. They’re quick and they’re both pretty good shooters. They just do it all.”
Cleveland’s four losses the past two seasons have come in out-of-state tournaments. But it was a season-ending, one-point loss to Eastmont in the regional round their freshman year that helped fuel a fire.
“That was a heartbreaker,” Roper said.
Cleveland had won its first state championship the season before, upsetting Holy Names in the title game, and dreamed of returning to the Tacoma Dome
Ladd called it a lesson learned.
“It was a good experience for us, knowing what it felt like to want something so badly,” she said.
They came up short again the following year, when Cleveland reached the semifinals before falling to rival Franklin for the fourth time. The Eagles bounced back to take third place with a victory over University of Spokane — the start of that 50-game in-state streak.
“Third place was cool,” Ladd said. “But after that, we’re like, ‘We’re not looking at third, we’re not looking at second, we’re going to go for first. Nothing’s going to hold us back.’ ”
Hand in hand, Roper and Ladd are making sure of that.
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