You gotta believe: Lady `Cats make playoffs

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The Valley's "Cardiac Kids" _ otherwise known as the Mount Si

Lady Wildcats _ moved into third place in the Valley Division last

Wednesday night with an exciting 44-42 overtime win at Cedarcrest. They followed

up Friday with another gut-wrencher, pulling out a last second 49-47

victory over visiting Sammamish.

The win over the Totems put them into a tie for second place with

the Totems. Not bad for a team that was completely out of the picture only

two weeks ago.

The mid-week game with the Lady Red Wolves was a plodder through

the final minutes of regulation play. It then took an exciting, even colorful

turn, including the ejection of a Mount Si parent for harassing the referees.

For most of the contest the two squads flew around the court, firing away but

rarely connecting.

The Red Wolves _ particularly senior Erin Townsend _ were

effective in slapping the ball out of Mount Si players' hands and preventing

shots, and Cedarcrest had more luck penetrating the lane and getting

their throws in. The Wildcats finally tied the game at 17-17 at 3:25 in the third

quarter on Moriah Hover's in-the-air-while-falling-down lay-up. She

subsequently sank a trey with six seconds left on the ticker, giving Mount Si

a 25-21 lead and bringing bellows from coach Mark Hillestad on

the Cedarcrest bench.

The teams continued to go back and forth through the last frame

with Mount Si maintaining a narrow two to four point margin. As time

expired Cedarcrest's Melanie Klevberg drove for the basket and missed her shot,

but drew a foul from Lindsay Ratcliffe. Klevberg missed her first throw

from the charity line but delivered on the second, tying the game at 36-36

with no time left on the clock. The Lady Wolves and their fans went wild,

while the Mount Si squad and coaches shook their heads in disbelief.

In OT Klevberg and Townsend combined on back-to-back

baskets, which quickly gave the Lady Red Wolves a 40-36 lead. The

Wildcats fought back for several minutes until finally _ with 35 seconds

remaining in the extra period _ Ratcliffe rose to the occasion, delivering a

lay-up which tied the game. The tall senior then sank a free throw to put her

team one up. Cedarcrest's Sarah Gustat and Libbye Hadden then fouled

Jessii Raisio; her free throws put the score to 44-42 in favor of Mount Si.

Cedarcrest got the ball back with 8.7 seconds left but

accidentally passed it to a waiting `Cat and that

was the game. The ladies in the visiting red screamed, huddled and hugged

while the Lady Red Wolves staggered back to their bench and out of the gym.

Hover led the team with 13 points and 20 rebounds, followed by

Nicci Landdeck with 11 points and Raisio with 10. Ratcliffe only scored five

on the night, but she got the ones that counted in the end.

The game itself wasn't very pretty, with each team contributing more

than their share of mistakes. However, the `Cats finished the night with the

"W" and a 4-8 league record going into Friday night's showdown with

second-place Sammamish.

That match turned out to be another one of those tough, edge of

seat, nail-biting contests. The Lady Totems pulled out to a quick 10-4 lead in

the first quarter and took a 22-17 margin into the half.

Halftime entertainment was courtesy of the Mount Si band,

which launched into a rousing rendition of "The Stripper" _ punctuated by

a trumpet player who removed his shirt in time to the music, complete

with appropriate bumps and grinds _ and "Zoot Suit Riot." When the ladies

returned to the court, they had the look of a team that was fired up and

ready for a riot of their own.

The two squads battled back and forth throughout the third, with

the Totems maintaining a two to three point lead. However, Landdeck's

consecutive baskets at the three-minute mark brought her team within

one point, at 32-33. Raisio finished the period with a successful shot at

the buzzer, giving Mount Si the 34-33 lead.

The fourth frame was definitely show time, punctuated by

freshman forward Kristen Travis' three-pointer which tied the contest at

42-42. Ratcliffe then telegraphed her own trey, making it 45-42 with 1:38 left

in regulation and the crowd went wild. Sammamish responded with three

20 seconds later, deadlocking the game once again, but Hover's

successful shot put the home team up again, 47-45. Travis' two shots from the

charity line as the final seconds ticked down iced the game.

Afterwards, the jubilant squad _ and doubly jubilant Coach Hansen

_ stayed out on the court to talk with their families and friends.

"Butterflies? Yeah, but they were exciting butterflies," said Raisio,

who finished with eight points. "I just wanted a `W.'"

"Faith kept us together," added Travis, who scored five on the

evening. Hover led the team in scoring, with 11 points and 11 rebounds,

followed by Landdeck's 10 points and Ratcliffe's nine.

"Can you say `Cinderella?'" Coach Hansen asked afterwards.

"Our girls got their self respect back. They needed it. They've arrived.

"I think we can beat Sammamish again Tuesday night, but we've got

to shoot better. We have got to hit that 15-foot jump shot. I think it's

going to be a game just like this."

If the Lady `Cats won Tuesday night's playoff game with the

Totems, they will enter the KingCo 3A playoffs Saturday as the Valley

Division's second place team. If they lost,

they'll start the playoffs Thursday at Bellevue Community College against the

Sky Division's fourth-place team, Skyline.

However, when asked if they could beat Sammamish Tuesday

night, Travis, Raisio and Landdeck all gave the same emphatic response: "Yes!"

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