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Constant on the court

Cleveland forward Mia Skolnick almost never leaves the floor

Mia Skolnick might not have the best jump shot, or be the best post-up player in the Portland Interscholastic League, but she dominates the Cleveland High girls basketball team in one key statistic Ñ playing time.

The 5-11 junior forward rarely leaves the court for the Warriors, who have surprised the PIL by becoming a state playoff contender this season.

Skolnick leads Cleveland in scoring with 18 points per game and in rebounding with 13 per game. She also has the intangibles that make coach Gaye Chapman put so much faith in her.

'Mia does so many things well and plays such a key role for our team, it's hard for me to take her off the court,' Chapman says. 'We really need her to win.'

For Skolnick, the extended playing time is welcome É as long as it produces results.

'Whatever I can do to help the team win, that's what I'm going to do,' she says.

Winning games is doubly important to Skolnick because she's in the midst of trying to make a name for herself with college coaches. She says she's heard from just one school Ñ Lewis & Clark.

But her skills might push her to a bigger school, if only she can be seen by more scouts.

Getting to the state playoffs would be one way to get their attention. Last year, the Warriors finished seventh in the 10-team PIL, winning just six league games. Cleveland, which also is getting key contributions from senior guard Katie Curtis and senior forward Sabrina Ezzat, has never been to the state tournament.

Skolnick has been playing basketball since the third grade, when she joined a league at a Boys & Girls Club. Having always been relatively tall, she's settled into the forward position.

Her skills have improved to the point where she plays summer club hoops with the Lady Legends, a team coached by Velaida Harris that also includes Lincoln standout Lauren Greif. Skolnik traveled the West last summer playing in tournaments designed to raise her skills and get her noticed by college recruiters.

'Cleveland doesn't have a reputation for winning, so maybe (college) coaches are looking at that, sort of waiting to see something,' says Chapman, a former college assistant who handled recruiting. 'Getting to state would be a huge lift for our program and for Mia. That says something about your ability to win.

'I think Mia definitely has the talent to play at a small Division I school. I know I would have recruited her.'

Skolnick, also a standout in the Cleveland choir as a soprano, averaged 23 points per game during a recent four-game win streak that propelled the Warriors into a tie for third place. A loss to Benson on Friday dropped Cleveland (4-4) a game out of third place heading into contests against Madison (0-8) and Jefferson (5-3) this week.

During an 84-71 win over Franklin last week, Skolnick showed the ability to score on broken plays and put-backs. She is working on her defense as well as trying to be a stronger player next to the basket.

'I just have to keep working hard on defense,' she says. 'And I try to play unselfishly on offense.

'The big key is to keep winning as a team and get to the state playoffs. That would really get me noticed.'

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