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By David Pan 

West Seattle hands Meadowdale heartbreaking loss | Girls basketball


Last updated 2/28/2019 at Noon

Meadowdale is back in the conversation.

After an absence of 10 years from the state tournament, the Mavericks made a spirited return to the postseason against West Seattle Friday, Feb. 22, at Garfield High School in Seattle.

Meadowdale gave the Wildcats all they could handle before a last second shot bounced up in the air off the rim twice before finally rattling off, allowing West Seattle to escape with a 41-40 victory in a loser-out 3A state regional tournament game.

The loss definitely stung, especially for the team’s five seniors.

But Meadowdale coach Arie Mahler reminded the Mavericks of their accomplishments.

“I think we put Meadowdale basketball back on the map and I told them all that they should walk out of this gym with their heads held high,” Mahler said. “My seniors, they get to leave a legacy and nobody can take that away from them.”

Playing in a state regional tournament game wasn’t necessarily on the minds of the Mavericks at the start of the regular season. But the wins kept coming, especially in the district tournament when Meadowdale prevailed in two loser-out contests and won a district play-in game.

“It’s been a rollercoaster,” said sophomore center Fatoumata Jaiteh, who led Meadowdale with 13 points. “Going into the season we didn’t even think we’d get this far. And now that we got this far, we had nothing to lose. We wanted to go farther. … It’s heartbreaking.”

The lack of playoff experience seemed to hurt the Mavericks (15-9), who did not make a field goal in the first quarter and ended up trailing West Seattle 11-1. Meadowdale eventually regrouped and started making shots in the second quarter and went into halftime down by only 10 points – 20-10.

“I think it was jitters,” Mahler said of Meadowdale’s first quarter struggles. “I knew that was going to happen. … I told them at halftime we don’t have to get it all back now.”

Mahler added that for some reason the Mavericks are a team that adjusts well at halftime.

“I think sometimes we play a little better when we’re down and there’s a greater urgency,” he said. “They showed it tonight.”

West Seattle (18-5) extended its lead to 24-10 early in the third quarter before the Mavericks came storming back.

“I’m extremely proud. They didn’t give up and they could have,” Mahler said. “To me. It shows the heart they have and the desire to get better.”

Sophomore guard Kaisha Stark connected on two 3-point shots and junior Alicia Morrison added another 3-pointer during a 16-0 run that saw Meadowdale take a 26-24 lead with 1:23 remaining in the period.

“It was only a 10-point game and we came back in the second half,” Jaiteh said. “It was just crazy. The energy was there.”

Meadowdale took a 34-31 lead into the fourth quarter in large part to the inside game of Jaiteh, who scored 10 of the Mavericks’ final 12 points of the period.

“We knew that Fatou would be able to dominate inside and she finally started getting some easy buckets,” Mahler said.

Meadowdale defense also limited West Seattle to only six points, while the offense generated 18 in the third period.

“We just told them don’t worry about the score,” Mahler said. “Focus on playing defense and that will get you back in this game and they went out and did it. They played defense and we finally got some shots to go down.”

The Mavericks extended their lead to 38-33 lead on back-to-back baskets by Lilly Williams and Jaiteh before West Seattle rallied to tie the score at 38 on a shot by senior Jasmine Gayles at the 2:08 mark.

Morrison then sank two free throws to give the Mavericks a 40-38 edge with 1:47 to go.

Gayles again tied the game again with a basket and later gave the Wildcats the 41-40 lead when she made one of two free throws with 19.5 seconds left.

Mahler encouraged his team at halftime to win the third quarter and then to win the fourth quarter.

“Even in the fourth quarter, you won the first two minutes, now go win the next two minutes and then we’ll win the last two,” Mahler said. “I think we won six minutes of that eight minutes.”

Mahler told the returning players to let the sting of Saturday’s loss last a little bit because that’s what will drive them to be better players.

Jaiteh took the message to heart.

“I’m ready for next year already,” she said. “I’m just a little sad that we couldn’t do it for our seniors, but I think we’re going to be a lot better next year, hungrier. I’m ready.”


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