The No. 3 West Seattle girls basketball team outlasted Cleveland, 49-48, to win the Metro League championship at Royal Brougham Pavilion at Seattle Pacific University.
The Wildcats dethroned Cleveland, which had won back-to-back Metro titles en route to back-to-back state championships.
“I know the coaches and I believed they could do it and they believed it but I don’t know that maybe everybody else did,” West Seattle head coach Sonya Elliot said. “So I think it’s good for them to show themselves that they’re truly champs.”
Cleveland knocked off the No. 1 team in the state, Lakeside, earlier this week to earn a spot in Friday’s game. And for a good part of a the game, it looked like Cleveland’s experience would carry it to a third championship. The Eagles led by as many as six.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Cleveland led 36-35. Then the Emily Fiso show started.
The West Seattle senior scored eight straight points (10 total in the quarter) and took six of the last nine shots for the Wildcats.
Aqeelah Williams was able to keep Cleveland in the game with a pair of three-pointers in the final minute of the game. Her second three came with 15 seconds left and West Seattle leading 49-48.
Cleveland head coach Jamie Redd yelled to her players to foul but they did her one better, coming up with a steal. The Eagles’ last possession of the game was a frantic one, though, and Zakeya Flowers missed a potential game-winner under the basket as time expired.
“Fortunately they turned the ball over and gave us another opportunity to score, we just couldn’t convert on the other end,” Redd said of the final play.
To say the Wildcats were short-handed in the title game would be an understatement. They already received the devastating news last week that starting point guard Gabby Sarver is out for the rest of the season, but also were without a fully healthy Lydia Giomi – the Metro MVP.
Giomi missed West Seattle’s last game with the flu and also missed three days of school this week. She came off the bench for the Wildcats and clearly wasn’t herself, finishing with just seven points and seven rebounds (she averages 15 points, 11 rebounds). Giomi was 2-for-11 from the field.
Without Sarver or a fully healthy Giomi, Fiso saw the opportunity to step up for her team.
“I feel like I have to do more things,” she said, ‘Bring the ball up, rebound, score more, and involve my team.”
West Seattle got to experience cutting down the nets in Royal Brougham but there was also an understanding among the players and coaches — there’s more to come.
“We got to celebrate a little bit, now it’s time to get back to work tomorrow morning, because we have work to do,” Elliot said.
Both West Seattle and Cleveland will continue their seasons next week in the District 2 tournament. West Seattle faces the winner of Saturday’s Blanchet-Garfield game and Cleveland will face the winner of Mercer Island-Ballard.