Her team hadn’t lost a game in nearly one month. But Sara Wilcox, Overlake’s first-year head girls’ coach, knew they were in for a battle against Bellevue Christian, the squad that handed the Owls their most recent defeat back on Jan. 13.
Unfortunately, the Vikings arrived for combat with far superior weapons and armor, handily defeating the Owls 66-36 in their 1A Emerald City League matchup on Tuesday night in Bellevue and snapping Overlake’s eight-game winning streak.
A combination of tough Viking defense and poor ball-handling by the Owls helped the home team take a 15-3 lead in the first quarter on the way to a 36-12 halftime lead.
“It’s a learning experience,” Wilcox said of the loss. “We knew that Bellevue Christian was going to be hard, they’re just a solid, solid team.”
Of all the statistics in the game, none were more glaring than Overlake’s six first-quarter turnovers, most of which occurred on bad passes that sailed out of bounds or into the hands of a Viking defender.
When it rained, it poured. Not only did the Owls struggle mightily shooting the ball — starting the game 1 for 12 from the field and 4 for 20 in the first half — but Bellevue Christian couldn’t miss. The Vikings shot 16 of 32 from the field in the first half.
“Going up against a team like this is what you live for, because it shows you how much you’ve grown,” Wilcox said. “Compared to our last game, we have grown a lot. We’re still making a lot of mistakes, but we’re working through those.”
The Owls, who finished the game 1 of 11 from three-point range, shot much better in the second half, which included a fourth-quarter run where Overlake made 6 of 10 from the floor.
Junior forward Jessica Elliott led the Owls with 14 points. Senior forward Alex Mackenzie scored eight of her team’s 12 points in the first half finished with 10.
With the win, Bellevue Christian improved to a perfect 10-0 in league this year and 13-2 overall, while the Owls dropped to 6-5 in league play and 10-6 for the season.
Even in the loss, Wilcox was impressed by the poise of Owl point guard Maya Marder, who had to deal with a tough, physical double-team almost all night.
Several times Marder hit the floor after being hacked hard by a Viking defender.
“The thing I love about Maya is that she really keeps her head,” said Wilcox of her diminuitive point guard. “She’s so focused and understands that pressure is going to come, and she doesn’t back down.”
The determination and leadership of the 5-foot junior brings life to the adage “It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
“There’s a little bit of frustration there, but at the same time, that’s going to happen when you’re the point guard,” Wilcox noted. “The ball’s in your hands a lot, and you just gotta know how to deal with that pressure, and she’s doing really well.”
Although Overlake’s magical run was bookended by Bellevue Christian’s championship-caliber team, Wilcox is feeling good about finishing the season against some tough opponents.
The Owls played Bush School (8-3, 11-3) at home on Friday night after the Reporter’s deadline.
“It was good while it lasted, and it always comes to an end,” said Wilcox on her team’s impressive streak. “Both mentally and physically, we need to step up our game. We can end strong, and we have every intention in doing so. There’s no backing down in us.”