By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Jefferson was a lot similar to that of Gervais from last season. Both had to go through the four-five game ironically at Colton to get to the third-place game at Sprague High School.
The Lady Lions jumped out to a 15-10 halftime lead before Gervais began to chip away at the lead with the senior hands of Natali Hernickx and Daisy Correa that slowly was picked up by the charge of Lily Welburn and Araceli Vasquez.
“They had their energy and excitement up from what the seniors were leading them and they really fed off of that,” said Head Coach Kyle Buse on the freshman feeding off the seniors. “Katie (Hanson) did a good job feeding off it as well.
“(The Seniors) brought the leadership and the freshman brought the athleticism and energy, so I think together it was a good team effort but we can’t always fight from behind.”
That seemed to be the Achilles Heel in the relatively young Lady Cats with five freshman that could be on the floor at any time as they gained the lead off a Vasquez shot to put them up 27-25 with 4:51 remaining in that they get to that point of taking the lead, but struggle to sustain it.
Jefferson hit back-to-back three’s to go up 31-27 with 3:58 remaining in trying to keep up with the aggressiveness of the Lady Cats.
“The other night we had a really close game with Colton and we knew down 15 that we had to come back and we just wanted to stay ahead,” said the Lady Lions Amanda Bruce.
Hernickx cut it to three at 32-29 before Maddi Wusstig pushed it to five. Welburn got it back to three, but a three point swing by Cassie Aguilar and Bruce that put Jefferson up 37-31 with seconds remaining iced the win as Hernickx’s free throw was the last point scored for Gervais and Hernickx’s career.
For Hernickx, Correra and the rest of the seniors, tears were there as their time in a Gervais uniform came to an end; but they left a program on the up-and-up as they have a strong foundation for the five freshman and a healthy Isabel Vasquez coming back next season as they drop to 2A and into a new league.
“I think our freshman took a lot. Not just from this last week experience, but this season. They grew a lot from Day 1 to now, it’s been a long four-months for us,” said Buse with the freshman. “Hopefully some of the stuff sticks and they’re going to come back and all of them are stepping into starting roles next year and transitioning to a new league.”
For the Lady Lions, it’s off to Rainier for the opening round of the playoffs as Jefferson becomes the third team in the third-straight year to go from fifth to third in the league playoffs.
Not just that, it’s the first-time that a Jefferson team has gone to the State playoffs since 1993.
“It’s so awesome, the last team that went to State is one of our player’s moms. It’s been a while,” said Bruce. “I think our team has a lot of heart, we play with heart the whole time, we play as a team and I think that helps us pushing through.”
Time is still yet to be determined and is slated for February 23.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald