By Jeremy McDonald
GERVAIS, Ore.– What a senior night it was for the Gervais Cougar basketball teams Thursday night versus Blanchet Catholic.
For both, it was one last chance to play at home before playoffs, and you could tell both left it all out on the court.
The Lady Cats came out like they have been all year, with strong defense and the Blanchet offense had a tough time getting around it with Gervais leading 12-11 in the second frame.
Their senior leadership with Andrea Villegas and Fabi Benavides, the squad looks comfortable playing with one another out on the court Thursday as they raised havoc versus the Cavailers with a playoff game on the horizon.
“These two (Villegas and Benavides) stepped up, I say a lot more than last year,” said Girls Head Coach Kyle Buse. “Coming in as a first-year coach and needing that senior leadership, I didn’t have all that last year. And these two sat back because they knew they were the juniors and they learned, they saw and they came out this year and knew exactly what I expected from them.
“We didn’t have to have a lot of talks. They knew what I expected, they played for me for a few years now. That’s why this year’s senior night was a lot different than last year’s senior night because you could tell it was an emotional night…and we’re going to carry that emotion into next week.”
Villegas scored three of her seven points in the third that resulted in the Cougars to be within ten of Blanchet, but the Cavs would find a groove and pull away in the latter stage of the second half though the team they were facing made them work for every, single point.
Bittersweet it was, Villegas and Benavides both are trying to comprehend with how soon this day came.
“Already,” smiled and laughed Villegas. “It’s sad cause it’s Gervais, we’re family and knowing that we won’t be apart of it anymore. Like have any records with the team, we know that they’ll be playing like we’re there and that’s like the sweet part. No matter what we left a mark…and they’ll carry that into next year.”
It was a bittersweet way for the Gervais Boys team’s season to end as their loss to Blanchet eliminated them from playoff contention, it was one of the best games the team played as they battled one of the best teams not just in the PacWest Conference, but in the State in 3A.
“Even though we lost, I’m glad we left it all out there to play with four other seniors,” said Derrick Jaramillo fighting back his emotions. “There’s nothing else we could’ve done, we gave it our all and we tried, we fought, we just gave all of our heart.”
Heart they did give. All 32 minutes of it.
They battled from a 8-2 deficit to take a 13-12 lead by the end of the first quarter with physical play and aggression that the Cavs did not expect to see.
With Blanchet pulling away in the third, 34-23 at one point, the Cougars came all the way back to five down as Jaramillo got two of his nine points in his final High School Basketball game.
“I’m really proud,” said Alex Isiordia. “We’ve done that all season. It’s just, today was little bit different. We gave a more energy, we stuck with a team that’s second in league and they blew out teams, they blew us out last time.
“Today, they didn’t blow us out. I just love the heart that they gave.”
They held a very good shooter in RJ Veliz to 15 points as Isiordia matched that himself in his final High School game.
This heart Isiordia pointed to, he hopes that the younger class-men can take that into next year in to keep it going.
“We tried our best and we want to give the underclassmen coming up, we want to give them something to look forward to,” said Isiordia. “Because they’re going to be good next year. I told them, ‘keep working, keep working, we’re going to keep improving.’
“(Alex)Kalugin he’s a freshman. Daniel (Hernandez) he’s a freshman, Elvis (Vallejo) is a sophomore. They’re going to be good next year.”
Head Coach Ben Schultz knows the feeling that these guys are going through, seniors or not, cause he wanted to move on as much as they did.
“I told them, win or lose, to leave it all on the court and they did,” he said. “It sucks that we can’t play on Saturday, but I’m proud of these guys. I wish I had one more year with these seniors.
“They came in and did everything I could ask them to do, the whole year,” Schultz added about the seniors. “They were the leaders. All four of them. They all worked hard, I wish we could have put a couple more wins on the board so they can be in the playoffs.”
As for the Gervais Girls Basketball team, it’s on to Colton Tuesday at Colton as they move their way through the PacWest Tournament.
“And we’re ready for it,” said Benavides. “If we play like we played first quarter, we should have a good game.”
For the guys, they’ll remember Senior Night as the time they took advantage of and broke out the Old School Warm-Up gear as they watch their girls team go as they can go.
“We found them and we really didn’t ask (Tim) Bowman our Athletic Director, we just kind of found them,” said Isiordia. “We just got to them.”
“It was pretty cool coming out,” adds Jaramillo with a smile. “It was pretty snazzy I thought.”
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