After wearing the glass slipper throughout the district playoffs, the Meadowdale Mavericks girls basketball team saw their Cinderella postseason end on Friday with a 41-40 heartbreaking loss to the West Seattle Wildcats in a WIAA 3A Girls Basketball Regional Playoff game at Seattle’s Garfield High School.
With the defeat, the Mavs go home without a trip to the big ball — the 3A Hardwood Classic state tournament contests played at the Tacoma Dome.
The emotional hurt of the one-point loss on Friday was evident on the faces of many on the Meadowdale squad immediately after the game.
“It sucks to lose by one, especially when we gave it our all,” Meadowdale’s Alicia Morrison said.
The Mavs’ painful defeat came after West Seattle, the No. 9-seed in the state tournament, overcame a five-point deficit with an 8-2 run in the final 3:10 of the game to snag the victory.
With West Seattle trailing 38-33, the Wildcats’ Kelsey Lenzie fired a 3-pointer to cut the Meadowdale lead to two; 40 seconds later Jasmine Gayles tied the game at 38-38 with a putback off an offensive rebound.
After Meadowdale regained a two-point advantage with 1:47 to go off a pair of free throws by Morrison, West Seattle tied it up again at 40-40 off a spinning move and bucket by Grace Sarver with 1:19 to go.
The Wildcats would get the only other point of the contest with just 19.5 seconds to go. Gayles stole the ball, drove the length of the court and was fouled by Meadowdale’s Soriah Swinton; Gayles converted one of two free throw attempts to give West Seattle the 41-40 lead.
The Lady Mavs had one last possession of the ball, but a long 3-point attempt by Kaisha Stark in the final seconds bounced twice on the rim before falling away and West Seattle walked off the court with the regional playoff win.
Sarver led West Seattle — and all scorers in the game — with 17 points; Lenzie added 10 points for the Wildcats.
Fatoumata Jaiteh scored 13 points for Meadowdale, all in the second half; Morrison contributed 11 points in the defeat.
Meadowdale’s improbable five-point lead with 3:10 to go was the result of a big turnaround from their first half of play. The Lady Mavs scored just one point in the first quarter and trailed at halftime 20-10.
With shots not dropping in the first half, Lady Mavs’ Coach Arie Mahler told the team to put their effort into play on the defensive end of the court.
“We told them don’t worry about the score — focus on playing defense and that will get you back in this game,” Mahler said of his halftime locker room talk to his team. “And they went out and they did it; they played defense.”
After Sarver scored for the Wildcats on consecutive shots to open the third quarter, Meadowdale — the No. 16 seed in the 16-team 3A state tournament — went on a 16-0 run to take a two-point lead late in the period.
While the Mavericks were jubilant that many of their third-quarter shots were finally finding their mark, Mahler was most pleased with the defensive work of his squad — something he first noticed the team was capable of earlier this month.
“That’s something that the girls have bought into in the last two, three weeks, is defense,” Mahler noted. “We preach it and we tell them your shots are not going to fall, you’re going to miss lay-ins, you’re going to be nervous, you’re going to whatever — but you can play defense. And defense is the great equalizer.”
West Seattle was held to just six points in the third quarter while Meadowdale scored 18 to tighten up a rather one-sided game in the first half. Unfortunately for Meadowdale, that advantage wouldn’t carry over into the final minutes of the contest as the Lady Wildcats escaped with the victory.
Most of Mahler’s postgame locker room address to his team was about the successful season the team had just completed, but he did spend some time looking ahead to next year.
“I did tell my returning players (to) let this sting last a little bit because that’s what will drive you to be a better player,” Mahler said.
The first-year Meadowdale coach also congratulated his team on its historical return to the regional round of the state tournament — the first time the Lady Mavs had reached the round of 16 since 2009.
“They’re proud. I think we put Meadowdale basketball back on the map,” Mahler stated. “I told them all that they should walk out of this gym with their head held high. My seniors, they get to leave a legacy and nobody can take that away from them.”
To view the entire WIAA 3A Girls Basketball Regional Playoffs and State Tournament brackets, click http://wiaa.com/ardisplay.aspx?ID=1818.
Prep Girls Basketball: Meadowdale vs. West Seattle, Feb. 22 (WIAA 3A Girls Basketball Regional Playoff loser-out game)
Meadowdale 1 9 18 12 — 40
West Seattle 11 9 6 15 — 41
Meadowdale individual scoring: Fatoumata Jaiteh 13, Alicia Morrison 11, Lilly Williams 7, Kaisha Stark 7, Soriah Swinton 2, Taylor Kesselring, Maia Austvold, Camryn Cassidy
West Seattle individual scoring: Grace Sarver 17, Kelsey Lenzie 10, Jasmine Gayles 7, Meghan Fiso 6, Julianna Horne 1, Jayla Wilson, Anissa Babitu
Records: Meadowdale 15-9 overall; West Seattle 18-5 overall
Meadowdale next game: 2018-2019 season completed
— Story and photos by Doug Petrowski