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Originally published March 1, 2010 at 6:10 PM | Page modified March 1, 2010 at 8:31 PM

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Auburn Riverside's Mercedes Wetmore hopes for smooth ending to successful career

Mercedes Wetmore, a senior guard who hopes to lead top-ranked Auburn Riverside to the Class 4A state girls basketball championship this week, admits she likes the name — something her mother, Chanelle, picked out long before Mercedes was born, based on a character in the teen movie "License to Drive."

Seattle Times staff reporter

"...underneath all the refinement, it's a vehicle made not just to move down the road, but to own it." — Mercedes-Benz description of its 2010 S550 sedan

AUBURN — She got her name from a character in a movie.

But Mercedes Wetmore fits the moniker in many ways. She's smooth on the basketball court, loves to drive to the hoop and, yes, thrives on owning it.

Wetmore, a senior guard who hopes to lead top-ranked Auburn Riverside to the Class 4A state girls basketball championship this week, admits she likes the name — something her mother, Chanelle, picked out long before Mercedes was born, based on a character in the teen movie "License to Drive."

"I just knew that was going to be my daughter's name, if I ever had a daughter," Chanelle said.

When asked what vehicle she would compare herself to as a player, Mercedes picks the Mercedes.

"I'd like to think that I'm smooth, although I haven't been that way lately," she said. "It's been kind of rough, honestly. But it looks nice, likes to drive smooth, but there might be a few scratches on it."

That's inevitable when you play pedal-to-the-metal the way Mercedes Wetmore does, all-out all the time. Perhaps she has a little Mack Truck in her as well.

It's the kind of drive that earned her a starting spot as a freshman at Auburn Riverside after her family moved from Parkland to Lake Tapps. She admits she developed a "love-hate" relationship with then-coach Adam Barrett, a man she credits for pushing her to become the player she is today.

The Ravens upset top-ranked Chief Sealth that season for the first of two straight Class 3A state championships and the standard was set.

For Wetmore, it is all about winning.

"I don't think I've every coached a player that has a greater desire to win," said Terry Johnson, who was the head boys coach at Lake Washington for six seasons before taking over the Riverside girls program this season. "There is nothing she is not willing to do to find a way to be successful. I just think that is such a hard trait to find in a lot of young people today, and she definitely has that."

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She comes by it naturally, from her father, Dave, a former high-school wrestling coach who built her a basketball court when she was 5 and painted "Mercedes Air Wetmore" on it. She played relentlessly, determined to get better and better.

For Mercedes, who will play basketball at Washington next season, it's all about striving to be the best — no matter what she is doing.

"I'm competitive with everything," she said.

Card games, board games, "friendly" games of golf with teammate Makenna Clark.

"I know she's better than me, but I don't tell her that," said Wetmore, whose near 4.0 grade-point average is marred only by three A-minuses. "It's always a battle, but it's a fun competitiveness. It keeps me going. To me, if you're not doing it to win, then why are you doing it?"

She could barely stomach last year's fourth-place finish at the Class 4A state tournament and this week only another state championship will do. If the Ravens (25-0) go down that road, Wetmore likely will be the one steering the way.

"I personally think she's the best point guard in the state," Federal Way coach Danny Graham said. "She's the one that runs this team. To be honest with you, if they didn't have her, they would not have the success they've had. They're a great team, all of them, but she runs that team.

"She doesn't just do it offensively. Defensively she's good, and she's tough-nosed. She gets after it and she likes to battle and that's pretty fun to watch."

Similar to a slightly nicked Mercedes-Benz blazing ahead like it owns the road.

Sandy Ringer: 206-718-1512 or sringer@seattletimes.com

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