TACOMA — After lots of friendly trash talk, the debate is finally settled … sort of.
All week during the Class 3A state basketball championships at the Tacoma Dome, Meadowdale High School boys and girls basketball players joked about their not-so-secret competition: Both teams wanted to outdo each other and earn a more prestigious trophy.
But after four days and a total of eight games between them, Meadowdale’s squads finished in a tie. The Mavericks earned matching sixth-place trophies Saturday after losing their respective third/sixth-place consolation finals.
“There wasn’t anything riding on it except pride, I guess,” said senior guard Roger O’Neill, who scored a team-high 19 points and made three steals in the Meadowdale boys’ 60-50 loss against Bellevue.
In the girls game, Holy Names beat Meadowdale 55-39.
O’Neill mentioned pride, something all Mavericks players and coaches had even after ending the season with back-to-back losses.
The Meadowdale boys (22-6) lost against top-ranked, nationally acclaimed Franklin Friday in the semifinals and, despite a strong start, stumbled against No. 2 Bellevue (26-3). Alex Schrempf, a senior forward, tallied 27 points and six rebounds for Bellevue, which lost a semifinal 52-51 in overtime Friday against Columbia River.
“I’m proud of the way we played. We played with the best down here and we competed with the best, and we can hang our heads high,” said O’Neill, whose team entered the week ranked No. 9 in 3A by the Tacoma News Tribune.
Against second-ranked Bellevue, junior post Connor Hamlett (12 points, four rebounds) and high-energy senior forward Nasser Kyobe (six points, six boards, one block, one steal) complemented O’Neill’s big game.
Meadowdale placed sixth for the third time in seven years. It achieved the feat in 2003 and 2004, also at the Tacoma Dome. The Mavericks have never placed higher.
“We’re going to break through one of these years,” said Meadowdale boys coach Chad McGuire, clutching the trophy. He praised the team’s eight seniors, many of whom had to wait until this season to fill prominent roles.
Bellevue took over midway through the first quarter and poured it on in the second period, building a 13-point advantage by halftime. Schrempf (16 points, four rebounds, two assists) had an outstanding half for the Wolverines. For Meadowdale, O’Neill (13 points) was five of six from the field and 3-for-3 on free throws.
In the fourth quarter, Meadowdale cut the deficit to eight but Bellevue remained firmly in control, sending the Mavericks to yet another sixth-place ending. Regardless, winning a top-eight trophy is special, said O’Neill.
“It means a lot,” he said. “Our goals this year were to win a Wesco title, win a district title and come home with some hardware in Tacoma. We did all those things, so it was a successful season.”
Near the end of O’Neill’s interview with reporters outside the locker room, first-year Meadowdale girls basketball coach Troy Parker stopped by and patted O’Neill on the back. “Congratulations. Great career,” said Parker, whose squad had just lost on the opposite court.
The seventh-ranked Meadowdale girls (21-7) snared a trophy despite playing without senior guard Hanna Fjortoft, who suffered a season-ending knee injury and watched the Mavericks’ postseason from the sidelines. Against No. 4 Holy Names (24-5), Meadowdale was overmatched. Guard/forward Erika Johnson erupted for 31 points, 12 rebounds, seven steals and two blocks for Holy Names, which outscored Meadowdale 14-4 in the final quarter.
Meadowdale’s leaders were senior forward Alexis Nugent (nine points, six rebounds) and junior guard Gabi Beyer (eight points, three boards).
Asked what he expressed to players after the loss, coach Parker said: “We had a celebration. We celebrated our season.”
“If we would have won,” he said, “it would have been a little bit happier celebration … but it’s been a successful year.”
In their 16th state-tourney appearance since 1993, the Meadowdale girls won yet another trophy. They snared top-eight hardware in all but two of those trips.
“This was the epitome of a true team,” Parker said. Referring to Fjortoft’s injury, Parker added, “Losing your captain and your leading scorer halfway through the season, other girls stepping up and not knowing who it’s going to be every night but knowing somebody’s going to — it’s the best part about coaching.”
Then Parker imagined how it will be when he is much older, sitting in a rocking chair and thinking about his inaugural season coaching the Meadowdale girls: “2008-2009 was a pretty good year.”
At the Tacoma Dome
Meadowdale—Zickefoose 0, Fjortoft 4, Barhoum 0, Landa 2, Molitor 1, Beyer 8, M. O’Neill 6, Horn 4, Nugent 9, Helber 0, Lillquist 0, C. O’Neill 5. Holy Names—Seni 4, Gonzales 2, Hale 0, Sullivan 7, Johnson 31, McLaughlin 0, Bergano-Kinney 0, Conricode 4, Buck 0, Fawcett 0, McCleave 3, Reichelt 4. 3-point goals—Sullivan 1, Beyer 1, M. O,Neill 1, C. O’Neill 1. Records—Meadowdale 21-7 overall. Holy Names 24-5.
Meadowdale—O’Neill 19, Neff-Warner 2, Johnson 3, Beucherie 0, Shiferaw 0, Surur 2, Coleman 0, Kyobe 6, Carroll 0, Hamlett 12, Larson 6. Bellevue—Christian 9, Mowe 4, Warren 2, Schrempf 27, Fields 2, Bright 7, Olson 9, Locke 0. 3-point goals—Olson 3, O’Neill 1. Records—Meadowdale 22-6 overall. Bellevue 26-3.
Mike Cane: 425-339-3471, email@example.com. Check out the prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam.