Meadowdale, Garfield clash tonight

Both teams had visions of greatness but only one walked away smiling.

Last March, the Meadowdale and Garfield high school girls basketball teams each a had state championship within its grasp. The senior-laden Mavericks took care of business, cutting down the Tacoma Dome nets after beating Rainier Beach for the Class 3A girls basketball title. But immaturity squashed sky-high potential for 4A Garfield, which settled for an unfulfilling runner-up finish after falling 55-52 against Roosevelt.

Meadowdale, ranked eighth in the Associated Press Class 4A poll, will try to derail Garfield at 6 p.m. tonight during the King Holiday Hoopfest at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Tickets for the seven-game event are $10 and can be purchased at the door.

This season both teams are demanding attention again. Despite losing a stellar senior class that included stars Quinn Brewe – now at Seattle Pacific University – and Anne Martin, Meadowdale has reloaded nicely while moving up to the 4A classification. Led by lone senior Ashley Fenimore, a heady point guard set to join Brewe at SPU, the Mavericks have roared to a 9-0 start, 8-0 in the Western Conference South Division.

But Meadowdale hasn’t faced a team like 9-0 Garfield, currently ranked No. 1 in the state and eighth in the West according to USA Today’s regional poll. The Bulldogs returned four starters from last year’s 24-2 team and have thrashed opponents by an average of 32 points, including a 20-point victory on Saturday over 3A No. 1 Chief Sealth (13-1).

So while last season ended very differently for Meadowdale and Garfield, the Bulldogs’ sour ending might have been a blessing.

“Sometimes when you don’t get what you want,” Garfield coach Joyce Walker said, “you tend to grow up.”

That’s bad news for everyone else.

“They really seem to be on a mission,” Meadowdale coach Karen Blair said. “Obviously, they’ve got to be considered the cream of the crop. They’re so deep, so athletic. They’ve got more experience than us.”

Garfield thrives on pressure defense and eye-popping athleticism. Junior post Samantha Tinned (19.4 points, 10 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game) and senior guard Malia O’Neal (18 ppg, 10 assists per game, six steals per game) lead the way.

How solid is Garfield? George-Washington bound Jamila Bates, a senior post, averages just 3.7 points per game.

“We’re just excited to have the opportunity to play against a team of that caliber,” Blair said. “It’s going to be a great experience for our team.”

Blair said her young Mavericks have exceeded expectations so far. Despite returning just one full-time starter (Fenimore, who averages 8.4 points, 6.5 assists and 4.5 steals), Meadowdale has shown superb balance while defeating its opponents by an average of 22 points. In particular, Blair has been pleased with her team’s ability to share the rebounding load.

Meadowdale’s offensive leaders include sophomore guard Marelle Moehrle (11.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.9 spg), junior guard Latrina Woods (9.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.6 spg), a transfer from Renton, and junior forward Caitlyn Rohrbach (8.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 3.1 spg). Then there’s freshman Eryn Jones, an unflappable 5-foot-7 guard who has made instant contributions (8.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.3 apg, 3.6 spg) all over the court.

With a variety of offensive threats to feed, Fenimore hasn’t had to shoulder too much of the scoring burden. Still, she’s uniquely dangerous, having shot an astonishing 61 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line through eight games.

Meadowdale remains the underdog in tonight’s anticipated battle, but Garfield’s Walker knows she’ll have her hands full. “Karen’s going to have her team ready to play. They’re not going to beat themselves. We’re just going to play with the same intensity as always.”

And once again, only one team will leave satisfied.

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