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Originally published February 28, 2013 at 9:35 PM | Page modified February 28, 2013 at 10:48 PM

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No. 2 Cleveland blows past University, 60-50 | 3A Girls

The Eagles used a 26-6 run to cruise into the second round, but they're focused on one goal: the state title.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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TACOMA — The Cleveland girls basketball team has turned plenty of observers into believers this season.

Mark Stinson joined the list Thursday after the second-ranked Eagles rolled to a 60-50 victory over his team, University of Spokane Valley, in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state tournament at the Tacoma Dome.

"If they don't win it, I'm going to be surprised," the coach said.

That's been Cleveland's plan since a disappointing finish here last season.

"Last year, we got third and we're not going for that," junior Myzhanique Ladd said.

The Eagles (25-2) have won 24 in a row since starting 1-2 at the Nike Northwest Invitational. Both losses were to out-of-state teams.

They face No. 5 Bellevue (25-2) in the semifinals Friday at 5:30 p.m. The Wolverines advanced with a 50-39 win over No. 8 Glacier Peak.

The other semifinal pits No. 4 Seattle Prep (22-5) against No. 3 Wilson of Tacoma (22-2) at 3:45 p.m. The winners play for the title Saturday at 3 p.m.

Cleveland looked vulnerable early on against University, trailing 20-12 early in the second quarter.

"We had a couple days to prepare for them, and I think we were prepared," Stinson said. "But athleticism eventually catches up to you."

And the Eagles have plenty of that. It was on display during the 26-6 run they put together to turn the tables on the Titans and take a 38-26 lead midway through the third period.

There was never any panic.

"All the preparation we've been doing is for moments like this," said junior Makala Roper, who finished with a game-high 22 points. "We stayed composed the whole entire game, and that's what helped us get the win today."

University still led 26-25 when Ladd powered a 13-0 spurt with nine of her 12 points.

"It was kind of like we weren't playing our game at first," she said. "We had to get a rude awakening with the score. That's when we had to step it up."

Ladd was also one of the key defenders who helped shut down U-Hi star Kayleigh Valley. Valley had averaged 24.5 points in the previous four playoff games, but had a quiet 11 Thursday and got her only points of the second half with less than three minutes to play.

"Thank God for our defense, because I think our defense really disrupted their flow," coach Stephenie Wheeler-Smith said. "And that's one of the things we've always kind hung our hats on."

Bellevue coach Leah Krautter said playing Cleveland will be a challenge.

"I really thing the biggest thing with Cleveland is going to be getting over that mental hurdle, because we've seen them play a few times," she said. "It's intimidating."

Cleveland's speed and defensive pressure are big concerns, Krautter said, but ones she believes the Wolverines can handle.

"I really think we'll give them a game and it could go either way," she said, "as long as we keep our heads in it and we take care of the basketball, I think we have a chance."

Bellevue 50, Glacier Peak 39

Coming off the big regional win over top-ranked Prairie, last year's state champion, the Wolverines struggled for more than three quarters against gritty Glacier Peak — in part because the Grizzlies were able to slow the game down.

It was 28-28 when Bellevue finally took control with a 16-3 run during a 4 ½-minute span in the fourth quarter. Junior point guard Erin McGowen scored all seven of her points — including a long three-pointer — during that spurt. Freshmen Tatiana Streun and Shelby Cansler also contributed big baskets.

"Finally we started to play with composed energy," Krautter said.

Streun recorded a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Cansler, the KingCo 3A/2A MVP, missed all seven of her shots in the first half and finished with eight points. Sophomore Mandy Steward added a team-high 14 points.

Nicole Fausey led the Grizzlies (18-7) with 10 points. They made just 2 of 15 three-pointers and shot a miserable 22.2 percent overall.

Seattle Prep 46, Kamiakin 39

Mary Ann Santucci relished the opportunity to guard Courtney Nelson, the Braves' top player.

"I like a challenge," she said. "And I knew my team had my back."

Kamiakin led 33-29 when Nelson made her second-straight three-pointer with 3:07 left in the third quarter, giving her 15 for the game. She didn't score again.

Michaela Carew sparked an 8-0 run that put the Panthers up 38-35 early in the fourth quarter and they never relinquished the lead. They buried six free throws — four by Santucci — in the final 1:56 to hold off the Braves (18-6).

Santucci finished with 14 points, while Carew led all scorers with 16 and added seven rebounds and six blocked shots.

Kamiakin went the final 1:36 without scoring. Santucci's two free throws with 20.2 to play stretched Prep's lead to 44-39. Nelson missed at the other end and Quinn Glosniak snared the rebound. She then buried two free throws with eight seconds on the clock to seal the win.

Wilson 48, Mercer Island 37

The unranked Islanders hung with the Rams early — the game was tied at 17 early in the second quarter — but ultimately couldn't keep up.

Wilson led by just 30-24 late in the third quarter. Then Justina Laney buried a long three-pointer and the Rams wound up scoring the final six points of the quarter.

The Islanders were still within range at 40-31 with 4:19 left in the game, but scored just five points the rest of the way, and three of those came on a last-second basket by Jamie Mounger.

Wilson won despite making only 2 of 10 free throws in the final 1:45, and 15 of 31 overall.

Bethany Montgomery and Tia Briggs each finished with 11 for the Rams. MI's Kris Brackmann led all scorers with 12. The Islanders (21-8) shot just 25.9 percent from the field.

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