Jazzeem Bethea scored 24 points and made a key three-pointer in overtime, and the Eagles handed the Wildcats their first loss to an in-state team, 63-60.
Fresh off a Sunday practice in which each member of the Cleveland High School girls basketball team had to make 250 free throws and 200 jump shots, confidence was at an all-time high.
That was especially true for senior guard Jazzeem Bethea, and it carried over into game action.
Down by as many as 11 points in the third quarter Wednesday, Bethea and the Eagles summoned that confidence and inside was an emphatic, positive answer.
Bethea scored seven of her team’s nine points in overtime as Cleveland shocked second-ranked West Seattle 63-60 in the 3A Metro League tournament semifinals at Seattle Pacific University’s Brougham Pavilion.
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“Every dead ball, every opportunity I got to talk to the girls on the court, I just told each and every individual that I believe in them,” Bethea said after the biggest upset in head coach Jamie Redd’s four-year tenure. “I just said, ‘I believe in you. I believe in you.’ It was all the way all around.
“We just trust each other. Our coach told us that this wasn’t going to be a gimme. We believe in each other.”
Bethea finished with a game-high 24 points, including a huge three-pointer for a 57-54 lead with 59 seconds left in OT to break a scoreless extra session. Then, Bethea proceeded to go 4 for 4 from the free-throw line in the final 34.6 seconds, and Resheal Spike provided two more clinching free throws with 3.3 seconds left.
“I was just in flow, playing my game,” Bethea said of her three-pointer, which gave the Eagles the lead for good. “I was just trying to contribute any way I can. I knew we had time if it wasn’t going to fall, and that we’d get it back.”
Jasmine Gayles’ three-quarter-court heave for West Seattle (17-4) was short at the buzzer.
The Wildcats left the floor with their first loss to an in-state opponent.
When the buzzer sounded, the Eagles danced jubilantly in front of their bench.
“I have a very resilient team that is full of a bunch of fighters,” Redd said. “We have good senior leadership, and I’ve been telling them all season long that nobody believes in Cleveland except for the people standing in this circle. With all the outside distractions, what people think, it doesn’t matter.
“It only matters what we believe in here.”
The Eagles (13-5) meet Seattle Prep (16-2) for the Metro League tournament title on Friday at 5:45 p.m. at SPU.
West Seattle takes on Garfield (17-5) for third and fourth places on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Nathan Hale. The Wildcats were led by the 23 points of sophomore Meghan Fiso and the 17 points of Kelsey Lenzie.
Kiera Bush scored 12 points for Cleveland.
• Bea Franklin had 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead Seattle Prep to a 62-55 victory over Garfield.
The Bulldogs were led by sophomore Dalayah Daniels (18 points) and Niveya Henley (15).