NEWBERG, Ore.–Walking into the George Fox University’s gym, Stayton knew they only had six girls that day who will be playing, so as they walked into their 11am game versus Central with a mentality of almost that of the saying, ‘Yolo’ and let’s have fun.
“It was kind of like, there’s not that many people but we have nothing to lose so we might as well go out and play as hard as we can with the six people we had,” said Alexa Bender.
“We had nothing to lose, have fun we came out last time pretty scared of these guys and we gave them a quick lead of like seven points and we just came out here, we want to come out strong,” adds Alli Nyquist. “We knew we can compete and I think we did a real good job of that.”
Going out, they were in the game against a tough Lady Cougars squad down five by the halfway point of the first half, not scared at all this time around versus them; but also too around this time Central was slowly turning momentum into their direction going up 17-10.
But then things got interesting.
Though they were down by seven, instead of rolling over and calling it a day they fought through the adversity as they came together as a unit and unbelievably turned a seven-point deficit into a 31-24 lead with a few minutes to play in the ball game, a 21-7 run by a team who only had one bench player versus a opponent who had three or four on their bench.
Some may call it scrappiness, others may call them fighters, but they were simply doing whatever they could to compete on the court Sunday morning with just each other out there.
“I think for us it was we want to play as hard as we can, we came here to win and that’s what we wanted to do,” “We all really mesh really well over the season and I think we did it for each other, it was more than about ourselves it was about the team and we really wanted this win.”
Then, the gut check time.
With 4:30 left in the game, during a pair of free throws you saw fatigue setting in on the faces of the Stayton Six, the question became can they finish this run as Central got it to 31-28 with two minutes to play.
A turnover made it 31-30, another one then happen as the Cougars send off a deep shot. You hear the shooter say something as she missed and the Eagles got the ball back as we entered the final 71 seconds of the ball game.
Stayton couldn’t capitalize on their next possession as both sides battled for the win, the Eagles to hold on, the Cougars to rally from seven-down for the win
With 18.7 seconds left timeout was called with Central in possession of the ball. Coming out for the 15th and final round of the bout, both fighters were tired, their legs heavy and there was nothing left but willpower and heart.
The Cougars in-bound the ball, dribble it around waiting for the last second shot. With about five-to-seven seconds left the shot was let off.
It misses, rebound by Central and the put-back, no good. Bender tries to get the rebound, no good as the Lady Cougs get another off, no good as a tip-out with all the hands in the air somehow kicked the ball out towards the perimeter as both sides jump on it as the buzzer rang to end the round, to end the game with the Eagles squeaking out by just one point.
Bender describes that last scramble by the hoop as intense as she tried her best to keep the ball out of the basket with the game on the line.
“It’s hard but I don’t have a sub, I’m just going to keep going, keep pushing not only for myself but for my teammates,” said Bender on the fatigue setting in and fighting until that final buzzer.
“I think it’s a huge confidence booster we’re still really new with each other but the fact we can mesh well and push each other to get better and get this win, it’s really important to us as a good bounce back from our last game,” said Nyquist.
Darren Shryock spoke highly to the team after this game, about how they battled through the adversity they went through as they found a way to get it done by the final whistle.
“So the biggest thing I think is that they came out and believed from the get-go,” said Shryock. “So they didn’t think, ‘we only have six, we feel sorry for ourselves. We’re missing a couple of kids’-that kind of stuff, they just played and they believed from the get-go so that’s what gave them a chance to be successful at the end.
“So I’m really proud of them for that. Like I said, summer is summer but it’s about getting better and taking steps and certainly this is a big step for us.”
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