AMITY, Ore.– It’s been a long, long time since Gervais has beaten Amity, and when the two met Saturday, the Lady Warriors were looking to keep it that way up 11 points thanks to Keely Graham and company against the relatively young Lady Cats squad.
However, as the Lady Cats have showed in spurts this year, they’re dangerous and it showed again to close out the first half as Graham and Morgan Croxford got into foul trouble that kept them out a good chuck of the game.
Sully Vasquez, Bella Vasquez led the charge as Mary Davidson hit the go-ahead shot to give Gervais a 26-25 halftime lead and then extending it to 31-25 by the 4:35 mark of the third quarter.
“Once we get into those huddles when Buse calls a timeout and he kind of puts us in our place, we all come out and are like, ‘we need to execute as a team’,” said Daisy Correa, who got first-team All-Tournament honors. “But we all came out, we all knew what we had to do and who their shooters were and we knew who to stop so we started to play our defense harder and started shooting more.
“I felt like in the beginning, we weren’t shooting much but we started to shoot more. We wanted to keep that lead that we had.”
Amity rallied as Hannah Hatch brought them within two with 3:33 to go as the game got back to within reach for the Lady Warriors. Girls like Hatch and Kaia Rosenbaum had to step-up
“It’s really important, they’re our main ball handlers so we all had to step up and taking a part of it,” said Hatch on all of them stepping up.
Hatch would nail a deep two to make it 37-32 two minutes in the game as Graham and Croxford re-entered the game with Croxford cutting it to three moments later.
Hatch made it a 37-36 game with 4:46 left in the ballgame in favor of the Lady Cats as both sides looked for a basket.
For the next 90 seconds, it was nothing more than a fight to keep the other off the board before Gervais went up three on the Warriors as both sides kept fighting for the ball.
Shots not falling, defense being stout.
Freshman guard Acaelia Vasquez fouls out and Amity has a chance to tie, neither would fall as freshman Lily Welburn was fouled by Graham, knocking her out of the game as well.
With the game going either way, playoff atmosphere with the heckling crowd around them, Welburn makes both to put Gervais up five. The question came up of ‘Can Gervais do this?’ with five freshman and five seniors and going through the gauntlet of what it could be here in February?
“You honestly have to block them out,” described the Cougars Natali Herinckx. “It’s hard, the fans heckling you whatever. But you just have to block it out and you just have to stay within your own head and that’s what makes the difference.”
Could it be that the Lady Cats will finally break the losing streak as Amity gets the ball again without their best guard in Graham on the court?
Surely that was answered as ‘yes’ as their defense kept the Lady Warriors off the board and made their free throws against traditionally one of the best teams in 3A to put Gervais in uncharted territory with a 5-2 record.
Entering Saturday’s game, they matched the start of the 2015-2016 season of 4-2 before falling to, ironically, the Lady Warriors, during the 9-16 that season; but a win like this could define a team for the better.
“Honestly, Buse said in the locker room, this is like playoff atomsphere and the fact that we just came in and we executed the game and just give us hope of the future,” smiled Herinckx.
For Buse, who picked up his first official win against Amity Saturday, pointed to the maturity of the team as they stood tall against a team that lost to Dayton in the State Title game two-years ago and was in the Elite 8 the year before.
“We stepped up and grew up. We stood tall tonight, plain and simple. Defense was amazing. 12 points in second half was great,” said Buse after the game.
And though they sit sixth in State, four spots ahead of Blanchet Catholic (3-3) and five spots behind Salem Academy (6-0), the Cougars still have work to do as they travel to Regis Thursday looking to continue this hot start to the season.