Cleveland beats Bishop Blanchet, 54-45, for 3A state title | Girls basketball
Makala Roper repeated as most valuable player as the Cleveland girls basketball team won a second straight Class 3A state championship with a 54-45 victory over Bishop Blanchet in an all-Metro League final.
Seattle Times staff reporter
TACOMA – Makala Roper was right at home again in the Tacoma Dome.
Roper repeated as most valuable player as the Cleveland girls basketball team won a second straight Class 3A state championship Saturday night with a 54-45 victory over Bishop Blanchet in an all-Metro League final.
“Our main goal for the game was to win the hustle plays,” Roper said. “We went out tonight to get all the 50-50 balls, and that’s what we did.”
The senior guard, who scored a game-high 17 points to cap an outstanding prep career, added: “I’m going to miss these guys a lot. I’m going to miss the journey.”
Fellow senior MyMy Ladd added 16 points and junior Jayde Christopher stepped up with eight clutch points in a game the Eagles didn’t put away until the final minutes.
The Braves trailed just 45-42 after a driving basket by freshman Taylor Chambers with 4:28 left. But they didn’t score again until Jadyn Bush hit the final basket of the game with 12 seconds to go.
The Eagles (27-2) were without do-everything Alexia Mefi, who suffered a bad sprain in her left wrist in the first half of Friday’s semifinal game against Bellevue and was done for the tournament.
The 5-foot-11 Mefi is one of their four seniors and typically leads them in rebounds. She played a critical role in last year’s title game with 15 points and 13 rebounds as Cleveland beat Seattle Prep in overtime – another all-Metro League final.
Joyce Harrell, a 6-1 junior, helped fill the void against Bellevue with 10 points and 12 boards. And she had some key moments against Blanchet, too, with eight points and nine boards.
But Roper and Ladd carried the load.
“Our seniors weren’t going to be denied,” said Cleveland coach Stephenie Wheeler-Smith, who won her third title in five years.
Blanchet (24-5) struggled with Bush, a 5-11 freshman, in foul trouble. She averaged 20 points and 9.5 rebounds in the Braves’ first two tournament victories and was named to the all-tournament team, but had just 10 in the final, as did Chambers. Bush added 12 rebounds.
Cleveland is the first 3A school to win back-to-back girls championships since Auburn Riverside repeated in 2008. The Eagles also won in 2010.
They didn’t expect this one to be easy, even though they had beaten Blanchet twice earlier in the season, 75-37 and 64-51.
But the Eagles’ maturity and experience showed in the end. Blanchet was back in the tournament for the first time since finishing fifth in 2004. The Braves have a rich history – they won 3A state titles in 1995 and 1996 and were runners-up in 1998, 2000 and 2001.
Roper and Ladd combined for 16 of Cleveland’s 18 first-quarter points. A Roper basket to start the second period put the Eagles up 20-12, but they couldn’t build on that lead until late in the second half as Blanchet hung close, even with Bush on the bench in foul trouble.
“They’re good, they’re hungry and they’re talented,” Wheeler-Smith said of the Braves.
It was Cleveland’s 53rd consecutive victory over in-state opponents dating to a win over University of Spokane in the 2012 consolation final. The Eagles’ four losses over the past two seasons came in out-of-state tournaments.
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