Lady 'Cats are down but not out

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Just as Valley nights are turning cold and snowy, the season's

growing long for the Mount Si Lady Wildcats. Coming off a gut-wrenching loss

to Cedarcrest, the `Cats managed to make the trek down icy I-90

last Wednesday evening to Mercer Island. Unfortunately, the 2-3 Islanders had

a warm reception in mind for the Mount Si squad, triumphing 59-40.

Fortunately, the malaise and any morale problems came to a

crashing conclusion last Friday night. While the Lady `Cats dropped their end of

week game to Newport 53-51, they were in it to the end. The change in the

team's confidence and ability to play together _ as a

team _ was remarkable.

Mercer Island opened their Tuesday night contest with a 20-5 romp

in the first period. The Lady `Cats responded with 20 points of their

own in the second, to the Islanders' 14, but Mercer Island put the kibosh on

any comeback in the second half, outscoring the visitors 25-15.

Senior Jessii Raisio led the Mount Si scorers with 12 points, followed

by Moriah Hover's nine and Nicci Landdeck's seven. The

normally strong Lindsay Ratcliffe only scored two for the night. More tellingly,

the team coughed up the ball a total of 32 times during the game.

The loss put the Wildcats at 1-5 in league play and tied for last place

in the Valley Division with Interlake.

Friday night the `Cats returned to the familiar surroundings of the

Mount Si gym and attempted to rebound against 2-4 Newport, who were

coming off a 41-40 loss to Cedarcrest. This one turned out to be a barn burner,

with the rejuvenated `Cats fighting and clawing throughout the entire

contest while proving they still knew the fundamentals of Dr. Naismith's game.

While the Knights took the tip and scored first, the Mount Si

players seemed loose and confident. Newport outscored them 19-11 in the first

quarter and 18-15 in the second, but the Lady `Cats kept picking

themselves up, worked the hoops and went for the rebounds. Both sides made like

mad bombers during the fast-paced first half, trading baskets at opposite

ends of the court.

After halftime _ which saw a spectacular demonstration by the

Panther Pride unicycle team _ Mount Si came alive, stuffing the Knights by 12-4

in the third quarter. At one point senior sparkplug Raisio made a

driving/falling/up over her right shoulder basket that brought the crowd to its feet

with a roar. Elsewhere on the court the team continued to tough it out, with

some tussles for the ball ending in scrums.

The physicality of the game contributed to a technical call on the

Newport coaches halfway through the fourth, after Ratcliffe caught a

foul. She responded by sinking her two penalty shots and the two

technical throws, putting Mount Si at 42-47. A couple of minutes later Hover

moved her team within one point, 47-48, off a patented Raisio to Hover pass on

the inside. Ratcliffe then took it to the rim, putting the `Cats up 49-48 with

just over a minute-forty remaining.

Unfortunately, the team's effort lurched to a stop in the final

seconds. Newport's Jaylene Powaukee notched the last three of her 19 points for

the night and a teammate sank a subsequent throw from the charity line,

putting the visiting Knights up 52-49 with just seconds left. Raisio's final

basket came as time ran out.

She finished with 15, while fellow senior Ratcliffe led the squad with

19, shooting 7-for-9 from the line. Hover rolled a 13 for the game and hauled

in 10 rebounds.

Despite losing, the team was ebullient afterwards. According to

Coach Hansen, the Mount Si women had definitely just turned a corner.

"We felt good out there tonight," said the coach after the game.

"My seniors stepped up and when they step up, we can beat anyone. I'm

especially proud of my freshmen girls.

"I just told the girls that if we play like that the rest of the season

we'll do fine. They played their hearts out."

Freshman starters Landdeck and Angela "Basketball" Jones

concurred with their coach and added it had been a surprisingly physical game.

"I'm kind of used to it," commented Landdeck. "I play with

my dad at home.

"We play really well together," she said of her older teammates. "It's

a step up from middle school, but we're expected to pitch right in."

"It's really great," said Jones.

"The coaches and players have really welcomed us to the team. It's true

team unity."

The Lady Wildcats resumed their "endless road trip" this week,

facing 4-2/8-4 Issaquah on Wednesday night. They'll travel to Valley

Division-leading Liberty this Friday night.

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