Cleveland surpasses milestone
When she first entered a varsity game as a seventh grader, it was easy to see that Tarah Cleveland had the potential to become the all-time leading scorer for the Menahga girls basketball team.
That potential was reached before a hometown crowd on Dec. 9 when Cleveland, who entered the season with 1,662 points, scored 18 points in a 55-47 loss to Sebeka to break the school record of 1,749 set by Tarah's older sister Erica.
"Tarah is such a hard worker and she has such a great basketball mind. She understands the game and is the best player I've ever seen at practicing like it's actually a game. It's not often you see someone that is only 5-foot-2 dominating in basketball," said Menahga head coach Steve Schreiber. "I am a firm believer that there is not one person that makes a team, but we would be a different type of team without her. She gives us the opportunity to play a real up-tempo style of basketball that is fun to watch and really fun to coach. Tarah is always trying to get better and she always talks about wanting to be on a successful team. She just wants to win and by her working as hard as she does, it increases our chance at winning as a team."
Despite being the focus of opposing defenses for the last four years, the junior guard has been a consistent scorer during her varsity career.
As a seventh grader, Cleveland scored 172 points, grabbed 70 rebounds, and had 49 steals and 21 assists in helping the Braves compile an 18-10 record.
Cleveland took over the starting role at shooting guard as an eighth grader and averaged a team-leading 17.0 points a game as the Braves went 9-17. Cleveland scored 441 points and also led the team with 105 steals while chipping in 87 rebounds and 50 assists that season.
During her freshman season, Cleveland surpassed 1,000 points while leading the Braves in scoring with 470 points (18.1 per game). Cleveland also had 100 rebounds, 52 steals and 43 assists as Menahga finished with an 8-18 record.
Last season, the Braves improved to 12-14 as a team as Cleveland led the way with 579 points (22.3 a game), including 52 3-pointers, 131 steals and 71 assists. Cleveland also had 104 rebounds while being moved from shooting guard to point guard. Cleveland also broke the single-game scoring record for the Menahga girls basketball team with 46 points in an overtime win over New York Mills after setting the record with 42 points in a win over Cass Lake.
So far this season, Cleveland has continued to produce on the offensive end with games of 28, 24, 29 and 28 points for a 25.4 points-per-game average as the Braves opened the season with a 3-2 record. In addition to leading the team in scoring, Cleveland also leads the team with 20 assists and is second with 24 steals. Cleveland is shooting 47 percent from the field (43 for 92) and 89 percent at the free throw line (31 for 35).
Even though the scoring record is a nice accomplishment, Schreiber is more proud of the way Cleveland focuses on the team concept.
"We've talked a lot about each girls' role on this team. I need my rebounders, my defensive stoppers, my shooters and my bench. Even if Tarah scored 35 points a game, if we didn't have anyone else ready and able to score or a defense to stop the other team, we wouldn't be very good," said Schreiber. "That is the greatest thing about this team. All my girls want to do is win. We play to win and succeed as a team. Individual awards are great, but team success is so much more gratifying. The girls understand that. I'm sure each and every one of them is happy for Tarah, but playing extra games in March means so much more to them. My girls understand that this is not just Tarah's team, even though she is most commonly in the spotlight. We are the Menahga Lady Braves and I have a lot of hope that this team will do some damage in February and March."