HALSEY, Ore.–By the middle part of the first quarter, Western Mennonite found themselves down 10 with all the momentum against them in the favor of Central Linn.
Slowly though, through their aggressive play and patience, the Lady Pioneers began to mount a comeback.
A few shots by Annika Hess and Makennan Hopper led the way as Western Mennonite took a 15-14 lead with 3:12 remaining in the opening half as they went into the locker room down 19-17 to the Lady Cobras.
“It was really important, we didn’t have it first quarter and then at the end we had it and just wanted to keep in that groove,” said Hopper on finding their rhythm entering halftime, the freshman finished with 11 points.
With a team with some inexperience and having two freshmen playing on the court like Hopper and Sydney Fahndrich playing alongside Varsity-returnees like Peyton Hopper, May Choi and Annika Hess and been battling all season long with girls taller than them impressed Lady Pioneers Head Coach Mike Hopper.
“Each and everyone of those girls are fighters, event the ones who don’t touch the court. They play way above their height and it has to do with heart more so than it does skill,” said Coach Hopper on the girls. “They battled back and every game we were out-sized by probably every team in the State and we still found a way to battle and get that close and I’m extremely proud. I’m just honored to coach them.”
The third quarter always seem to be an issue for the Western Mennonite girls and it unfortuately reared it’s head again against the Lady Cobras Monday night as Central Linn turned the two-point ball game into a 32-19 lead entering the final quarter.
The intensity was there but things were going against the Lady Pios as shots weren’t falling, turnovers, rebounding and the Cobras quickly capitalized on them to build the lead.
“We gave it our all, we definitely could have played better during the whole game but at the end we gave it our all and left it all on the court,” said Choi, who had a nifty little steal in the second half as Western Mennonite tried to find an answer for Central Linn.
The Pioneers kept battling, scoring 16 points in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get closer than eight-, nine-points to the Lady Cobras total as Central Linn walked again with a 44-35 victory to end Western Mennonite’s season.
As they made their way to the locker rooms, hugs were giving out at the Lady Pioneers bench. There was a quick embrace between sisters Makenna and Peyton Hopper before they went to the locker room.
And for the younger Hopper, Makennan, she won’t forget the time she spent with her older sister, especially in her final game.
“It’s so special. I didn’t get to with my oldest sister, so doing it with my best friend is just awesome,” said Hopper. “I love her so much and she can be a pill to play with but I love her so much though.”
With girls like Makenna Hopper, Choi, Hess and Fahndrich coming back next season, they’ll find ways to build from this momentum entering the offseason and preparing for next season.
“We can definitely work harder in the off-season like in the summer for summer league and then maybe spend some more time in the gym and just play more games and just practice and get more experience and just prepare for next year,” said Choi, who finished with 3 points in the loss.
Hess finished with 19 points and MaKinley Gutierrez added another two points for Western Mennonite.