FOREST GROVE, Ore.– The State Tournament has no mercy on the eight teams that arrive at the Final Site and will make you work for every point you get.
In the first game of the tournament’s third day featured a Stayton team who had to hold off Hidden Valley to get to the fourth-sixth game as Valley Catholic had to beat the buzzer by Callie Kawaguchi with 17 seconds left to beat Baker.
With tired legs and fatigue both teams came out fighting. Game tied at 8, Stayton led at the halftime break and the Valiants led after three.
The Nyquist Duo of Alli and KJ got it to 27-26 from a shot by Alli Nyquist and a three by KJ before Noelle Mannen converted on 2-for-3 at the line and Kawaguchi turned a steal into two points and gave the lead back to Valley Catholic after Marri Martinez handed the Lady Eagles a brief 28-27 lead with 3:05 left in the game.
Both teams were finding ways to get spurts going with the Valiants up 31-28 2:43 left in the game.
“It’s a really tough thing, your playing at 8 o’clock on the third day after playing after playing three games in a row,” said Stayton Head Coach Darren Shryock. “Two previous tough games, it’s just hard to muster energy for a hard game like that.”
A call reversal against Stayton allowed KJ Nyquist to cut the lead to one off two free throws as Bender makes a turnaround jumper to hand the Eagles a 32-31 lead with two minutes to go.
Both sides traded baskets as Genevieve Frith went 1-for-2 at the line to hand Stayton a 35-34 lead as it came down to the Eagle defense versus the Valley Catholic offense.
As the Valiants went up for a three and shot, a foul as called following the shot that allowed Valley Catholic to take the game 37-35 off three successful free throws as the Valiants cheered after the buzzer as they finished fourth in the State of Oregon as Stayton finished sixth.
“I think it really excites us for what we have next year and it just kind of gets us pumped to do it all again,” said Frith. “It’s exciting that we get to do it as a team, we’ll miss out seniors there huge, huge part of our team.”
Though the Lady Eagles have two seniors on the team, it’s two big time shoes in Lexi Smart and Bender they’ll have to fill down in the post as well as in the starting lineup next winter.
“They were literally our rocks,” said Frith on Smart and Bender. “I don’t know, they held us together, supported us. Pushed all of us to be better and so I think it’s going to be a huge loss, but it happens and you just got to have more people step up next year.
“But we’re going to miss them so much, they were huge.”
Martinez and Lexi’s sister Alyssa should be slotted to take over as both saw time in the post this season as Frith, the Nyquist Sisters will be the returning guards.
And this experience, being in tight games like Mazama to get to the Elite 8. Cascade, Hidden Valley and Valley Catholic the last three days and competing the way they did, showed them what they’re capable of moving into next season.
“It was huge, it was really nice seeing other teams and competing with them,” said Martinez. “All of our games were pretty close so it was our competition. It was head-to-head, us-or-them.”