By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Another year has come and gone and another fourth-fifth seed has done the unthinkable and won back-to-back games to make it to the bracket.
Entering this game, Scio was 6-6 in the PacWest Conference and Gervais came in 4-8 in league and coming off a game already against a tough Colton squad Tuesday night.
And it looked like the fatigue was their to start the game as the Lady Loggers jumped out to a 9-2 late first quarter lead and had momentum full in their favor as the Lady Cats looked tired.
Until, a little spark brought Gervais to within two by quarters end as Andrea Villegas hits a big three to bring it to 9-7 at the end of the quarter.
“Honestly we were just strong, we were just trying to make sure that we did our team huddle that none of us would fall off,” said Villegas. “So we were there the whole time all on the same page, we were making sure we were communicating a lot.”
Gervais got the game to within one early in the second quarter before Scio pushed the lead back out to 16-11 by halftime as the Lady Loggers fought to keep the Cougars off the boards with the strong play by Katelyn Gray and timely baskets when they needed them.
“We worked hard all season, Gervais came out with a good gameplan, they had the ball at the last second and they got what they wanted and we just ran out of time,” said Loggers Head Coach Jim White. “We played hard, we had a great season.
“We lost one of our better players Kim Ortiz in the third game of the season. Our team could’ve folded but we took third and league, I’m proud of them.”
That hard work was put to the test as the Lady Cats found a niche on offense they’ve been looking for as they took a two-point lead with 90 seconds left in the game off a Karina Ramos three-pointer.
Scio battled back as Autumn Mitchell gave her squad a 21-20 lead to start the fourth as both team’s traded shots physically in trying to keep the other off the board as seven points were scored during the span of the rest of the quarter due to defense and the connection on free throws.
With 24.1 seconds left the Cougars called time as Head Coach Kyle Buse described the huddle and the strategy to come. Very similar to that of Colton of staying calm in the huddle before going back out to the court.
“I knew if I stayed calm, they will stay calm,” said Buse. “But even getting into the huddle, they relax me more because they won’t freaking out, they were like, ‘Ok,coach has it, we’re ready for whatever he’s going to through to us, we can do it’.
“And it showed, they came out and they were ready and they were like, ‘we can do this’. Dre (Andrea Villegas) was saying over and over again, ‘ we got this look at the score guys we are right there’ and we just need to finish.”
Coming out of the huddle they’ve proved they were ready as after a few seconds, it wasn’t Villegas who took the final shot, but Isabel Vasquez, a freshman, who proved clutch as she drove the lane and with her opposite hand, made the go-ahead basket with seconds left.
“Usually in practice I don’t make left-hand lay-ups and Buse always say ‘watch it go in’ and I watched it go in,” said Vasquez on the shot.
The Loggers, holding out hope as the quickly went down the court and heaved a last second shot at the buzzer, only to see it miss it’s mark barely to end the game and the season.
As the Cougars celebrated on the Sprague High School court, Scio knew a few seconds more and it would’ve been theirs.
“Frustrating cause we knew we could’ve had it, just those last couple of seconds,” said Mckenzie Reger.
“We battled, i coached this team forever and I’m just really proud of them the way they battled out there,” said White on his team.
Though they are graduating five seniors, they are returning a sharp-shooter in Reger and the strong rebounding and post presence in Gray for next year to build around as confidence is there already for 2017-2018.
“Just do what we do and keep on pushing. Work to get better,” Reger said.
The road doesn’t get easier for Gervais however as on February 25, to open the playoffs, they open up the bracket against two-time defending 3A State Champs in Dayton on the road in Dayton and will have their hands full slowing down guard Shawnie Spink.
“The girls say that Dayton is a good team and I can’t wait to play them because I’ve never played them,” said Vasquez. “So I can’t wait to play them.”
As for right now though, they are celebrating their first trip to the Big Show since 2012-2013 as they found themselves rushing the court following Vasquez’ winning shot.
“It was all in the moment,” laugh Villegas. “I knew we had to hold the ball and take care of it and get a last shot, get a foul or make the shot and she (Vasquez) hit it, it didn’t have to go to overtime but we were ready for overtime if we had to.
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PHOTOS BY JEREMY MCDONALD