Mavs come home with hardware

  • David Pan<br>Enterprise sports editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:27am

TACOMA — The Meadowdale Mavericks never gave up in last week’s Class 4A state girls basketball tournament.

Not when they trailed by 20 points early in the third quarter of their first round game against Kentwood.

Not when starting point guard Eryn Jones went down with an ankle injury late in a close game against arch-rival Jackson.

Meadowdale’s determination to keep battling in the face of adversity was rewarded with an eighth-place trophy as the Mavericks split their four games at the Tacoma Dome.

First-year coach Dan Taylor was more than pleased with the Mavericks’ gutsy performance.

“We’ve got to be content,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t expect us to be that far. They can say they’re one of the best teams in 4A, so they should be proud of themselves. I’m proud of them. I’m encouraged by what they did despite all the adversity and the bumps in the road. They fought through and played well.”

Meadowdale, which was making its 11th straight appearance at state, was without a pair of senior starters, who were dismissed from the team in mid-February due to violations in the Edmonds District athletic code.

As a consequence, not much was expected of the Mavericks, even though they were coming off a second-place finish at the district tournament.

“Everyone expected us not to do anything and then to come in and take eighth in state, that’s a huge achievement,” junior guard Marelle Moehrle said. “It’s a great experience.”

After opening with a heartbreaking 58-56 loss to Kentwood, Meadowdale posted back-to-back victories over Bellarmine Prep (57-39) and Western Conference South Division rival Jackson (60-56) before losing to Mount Tahoma 60-45 in the fifth-eighth place game March 11 at the Tacoma Dome.

The loss didn’t diminish the pride senior center Caitlyn Rohrbach felt in her teammates and coaches.

“We’ve pulled through a lot this year,” Rohrbach said. “To come home with a trophy, it’s amazing. It’s a good way to finish my senior year.”

Mount Tahoma jumped on Meadowdale early, taking a 23-12 first quarter advantage. The Mavericks were without Jones, who was on the sidelines with crutches after reinjuring her ankle during Meadowdale’s victory over Jackson the day before.

The Mavericks found it difficult to deal with the Thunderbirds’ pressure defense.

“We played their game,” Taylor said. “We didn’t play our type of basketball. We let their pressure defense get to us … not having Eryn we lose a lot of ball handling. That kind of hurt us a little because you can’t run your own offense.”

Meadowdale shot only 25 percent from the field and connected on only 24 percent of its 3-pointers.

Taylor noted that usually the other team has problems dealing with Meadowdale’s pressure defense.

“Mount Tahoma is a scrappy team,” Moehrle said. “They came out and just kind of took the lead and kept with it.”

Meadowdale (23-3 overall) responded with a balanced attack as Rohrbach, Moehrle and freshman guard Hanna Fjortoft each scored 12 points.

The late-season adversity brought the Mavericks even closer together. Coming into the season Meadowdale returned all but one player from last year’s squad.

“We’ve definitely grown as a team,” Moehrle said. “We’ve just been able to bond more as a team.”

Taylor agrees with Moehrle.

“They’re even closer than they’ve ever been,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade their team chemistry for anything. These girls have jelled so close together. I don’t think anything can pull them apart right now.”

Rohrbach took on some added responsibilities at the state tournament. The senior standout switched to point guard when Jones was injured during a collision at the 2:44 mark of the fourth quarter against Jackson in a March 10 game. The Mavericks held a 54-52 lead when Jones had to be helped off the court.

The Timberwolves immediately tied the score at 54 with 2:20 remaining. Rohrbach then drove to the basket, scored and also was fouled in the process. Her free throw gave Meadowdale a 57-54 lead with just over two minutes left. Rohrbach later would grab a key rebound off a missed Jackson free throw and made one of two free throws as the Mavericks prevailed.

This wasn’t the first time Rohrbach has run the point as she took over for Jones when she first injured her ankle late in the regular season.

“She’s so versatile as a post and as a guard,” Taylor said. “Caitlyn does a great job running that point spot.”

Rohrbach also played a stabilizing influence in Meadowdale’s first-round game in which the Mavericks overcame a 20-point third-quarter deficit and almost pulled off an upset over Kentwood.

Meadowdale struggled throughout the first half and went into the third quarter trailing 36-20. A pair of quick baskets by the Conquerors resulted in a 40-20 deficit less than a minute into the period.

The Mavericks didn’t panic and by the end of the third quarter they trailed 52-42. Meadowdale kept chipping away at the deficit and finally tied the score at 56 on a basket by Fjortoft.

The teams appeared headed for overtime when Kentwood missed a shot but a putback attempt by Jessie Genger with about a second left lifted the Conquerors to the victory.

“I never lost faith in my team,” Rohrbach said. “We had to work hard and get after it and fight to the finish … that’s a hard way to lose — at the buzzer. I’m proud of my team for fighting back.”

Rohrbach stepped up her role on and off the court, Moehrle said.

“She definitely has been a leader,” Moehrle said. “I’m definitely going to miss her next year.”

The adversity the Mavericks have faced this season has been a learning experience for the players.

Meadowdale kept its sights set on its goals in spite of all the distractions.

“You always have to fight through and keep your eyes on your goals or else you’ll get lost in it all,” Rohrbach said. “Through it all you’ve just got to fight and come together as a team and stick together.”

Taylor also came into a somewhat difficult situation, taking over for former coach Karen Blair, who resigned under less-than-amicable circumstances with the district.

“He’s such a great coach and such a great person,” Rohrbach said. “He just cares so much about us and that’s what really helped us this season. Through it all he just cared and wanted to see us improve and get down here and get some hardware. That’s what he did.”

Rohrbach is excited about Meadowdale’s future prospects, especially since she is the only player who will be graduating this year.

“There’s so much talent,” Rohrbach said. “I think they’re going to do awesome next year. I’ll have to come back and see a couple of games down here when they make it back.”

This was Moehrle’s third time to the state tournament and she is looking forward to a possible fourth straight trip to the Tacoma Dome.

Replacing Rohrbach won’t be easy, Moehrle said, but the younger players look to be ready for the challenge.

“All these girls have this experience and we’re still a young team, but we’re an experienced team,” Moehrle said. “I’m excited about next year and what’s to come.”

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