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New Year’s girls hoop treat: Lynnwood vs. Cleveland

Have you been wondering how the top-ranked girls basketball team in Class 4A would fare against the No. 1 team in  3A?

You can find out on New Year’s Day, when Lynnwood (6-0) takes on Cleveland (4-2) at 7 p.m at Cleveland High School.

“We’re excited and looking forward to this game,” Cleveland coach Stephenie Wheeler-Smith said. “It’s just going to be some more good work for us and them, too, or course. We’re excited we were able to make it happen.”

Lynnwood coach Everett Edwards shares that enthusiasm.

“We’re very excited about it,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for us to face a little bit more adversity and go up against a team that is going to be just as quick or quicker than us. It’s a chance for our players to go up against some great athletes. They’re a very well-coached team. I couldn’t have asked for much more.”

Both teams had unexpected openings in their schedules.

Lynnwood, ranked No. 13 nationally by USA Today, had a game snowed out in the Nike Northwest Challenge earlier this month.

Cleveland, the defending 3A state champion, was supposed to play this past weekend at Skyview of Vancouver (currently ranked No. 5 in 4A) after hosting the Storm last season. But when the Eagles had a chance to play in the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the Skyview game was bumped and the two teams could not find a mutual reschedule date.

That got some parents thinking. Many of the Cleveland and Lynnwood players are familiar with each other through the AAU circuit. Rob Christopher, whose daughter Jayde plays for Cleveland, called Edwards early Sunday evening to see if he might be interested in a matchup with the Eagles. He was and began exchanging phone calls and texts that night with Derrick Wheeler-Smith, Stephenie’s husband and head assistant coach.

The athletic directors from both schools were soon on board and the game became official Tuesday.

Cleveland’s lone two losses came against California teams in the TOC event, but both were close and the Eagles won their final game there. Lynnwood won the Northwest Challenge with two victories and followed with a thrilling, double-overtime victory over second-ranked Mount Rainier.

And if you’re a prep girls basketball fan, what better way to start the New Year?

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