After eight games, the Meadowdale High School girls basketball team was 4-4 and looking up at several teams in the 3A Wesco South standings.
Eight games later, the Mavericks have reeled off seven wins to put themselves in the running for the division crown. Meadowdale’s only loss in that stretch came at the hands of Stanwood, a game Meadowdale led at halftime and ultimately lost 54-53.
The Mavericks (6-3 in conference, 11-5 overall) trail first-place Shorewood (7-1, 12-3) by 11/2 games, and second-place Glacier Peak (7-2, 12-4) by one game. Meadowdale plays Shorewood on Wednesday and Glacier Peak on Friday. Two wins would give the Mavericks a shot at the title. A loss in either game probably means no division crown.
Championship or no championship, Meadowdale has clinched a playoff berth thanks to its strong run in the second half of the season.
Three seniors on the Mavericks’ roster — wing Alyssa Reuble, guard Sara Fjortoft and wing Julianne Kossian — said things started to turn around for the team in December, when the Mavs won the Surf ‘N Slam Hoop Classic in San Diego.
“We went down there and we all got to just be together instead of having people (from) outside of our team involving (themselves). It was just us.” Fjortoft said. “And we really came together and we won three straight down there and then we came back and one four more in a row.”
Added Reuble: “We started playing like a team for the very first time and depending on one another and not having to look to our coaches as much. It was something that was really inspirational and really brought us together.”
And winning the tournament gave the Mavericks a welcome boost of confidence.
“We definitely didn’t think that we were going to come away with the championship,” Fjortoft said. “Everyone would talk to us before we left and they were like, ‘Are you guys really going to California for a tournament?’ And then everyone was shocked after we won the whole thing and went 3-0.”
The Mavericks didn’t beat up on slouches, either. They defeated some quality basketball teams.
“One of the teams had a top all-state girl from Kentucky and she was only a junior when she got the award,” Kossian said. “Another team was Lynden and they go to state like every year and we haven’t been to state in like three years. The other team was from California, a private school, and they were really good too.”
And after the tournament was over, the Mavericks got to celebrate by having a little fun.
“It’s probably the only time in life that I can say, ‘We win a tournament one day and we are going to Disneyland tomorrow.’ Which is exactly what we did,” Meadowdale head coach Troy Parker said. “It was a great trip.”
With the confidence of a tournament championship under their belt, the Mavericks continued to reel off wins when they returned, including a come-from-behind victory over Marysville Pilchuck in overtime.
“It spring boarded us,” Reuble said. “It gave us the confidence we needed. We were hitting shots. Our presses were working. Offensively, we were just moving a lot better than we were before.”
Meadowdale didn’t play its best game in defeating Marysville, but the Mavs did play hard from the opening tip until the final buzzer.
“You have to play 32 quality minutes as a whole to beat us,” Reuble said. “If it’s not 32, it’s (36) with overtime. One way or another we are going to find a way to bite you if you don’t play that full time against us.”
Even though the Mavericks have risen in the standings and have climbed to seventh in The Herald’s weekly power poll, the players say they’re still flying under the radar — in part because nine of the 12 players on Meadowdale’s varsity roster are 5-foot-8 or shorter.
“I feel like people really underestimate us because we are all so short,” Reuble said. “And we are … but we all put our 10 points or 12 points into the bank.”
The Mavericks had to adjust early on this season to the graduation of standout Margreet Barhoum, now at Montana State. Barhoum handled the bulk of the scoring the past three seasons. The players struggled at first with their new roles, but have since found their balance.
“Margreet was our point guard and she had the ball a lot,” Parker said. “Although we brought a lot of kids back with varsity experience, they weren’t necessarily in the roles that we needed them to play this year. Quite frankly, we kind of had to figure that out a little bit.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.