The Last Ride

By Jeremy McDonald

jeremymcdonald73@gmail.com

FOREST GROVE, Ore.–  There’s a lot to be said about this special senior class of Lady Cougars at Cascade.

Yes we could focus on records (93-12), Elite Eight appearances  (four) and State Title appearances  (two) and one Division-1 athlete during their four-years, but we’ll just be focusing too much on metrics, too much on numbers to describe High School athlete’s just trying to enjoy their prep careers.
It’s their bond amongst each other that makes them special beyond a headline or game-story they just played in.
Their bond, the adversity they had to go through as a team at times, just brought themselves together
“The amount of time we’ve spent together and all the things that we had to overcome, it just shows how strong our team was, how much we loved each other and how much we cared for each other,” said Emma Woods.
Already established and looking to grow as a class as leaders, some would think they’ll crumble when Halle Wright went down in the first day of the tournament as juniors.  But they did just the opposite as this team showed the world how close their family was as they rallied together as fellow junior Kelsey Molan taking charge as they bounced back to take fourth in 2017.
To start the season, going through some rough patches, their bond didn’t faulter as they entered Oregon West Conference-League play one last time, winning yet another Title.  When they defeated Henley to advance to the Elite 8, they got Head Coach Mark Stevens to jump with them in a picture that was taken post-game.
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Kirstin Cade (23) running out during the introduction of the starting line-ups Saturday (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)
Entering the Elite 8, they relied on each other emotionally and mentally to beat Stayton, used teamwork to get a late basket over North Marion as the bench went crazy when Wright found Molan for the win as they went to the State Title Game.
“The bond we have together is so unbreakable, I wouldn’t want to come to this tournament with any other team because we’re all just so close and we know all each other plays,” said Lexi  Loukojarvi.  “It’s a really good feeling going into the tournament with all…they’re all my best friends and there’s no better feeling than that.”
That friendship with these seniors entered it’s final chapter.  It’s Last Ride against Marshfield.  And hey, no other people to spend the game with right?  The same girls you’ve spent most your life and playing career around, getting to spend it one last time together.
“It was so awesome, I’m so happy we got to experience it again for a second-time.  I mean I wish the outcome was different, but I’m glad I got to play with my girls one last time,” said Mayson Olson.
“There’s no other people I would rather have on my team to play my last game with, I’m going to miss them all very much.  I wouldn’t want to trade them for anyone.” adds Woods.
In their final game, down 28-18 at halftime, they clawed back into the game.  Wright free throws, Gracie Rasmussen lay-up.  Steal by Molan.  Wright assist to Loukojarvi’s lay-up as they showed how much they cared for each other as they didn’t give-in to the deficit as they got the game tied at 38 with 4:59 left in the ballgame.
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Head Coach Mark Stevens talking to the team during the State Finals Game (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)
That fight.  That fight for themselves, for each other, for everyone they know…to climb back into contention and play together one last-time and trying to find a way to end their High School Careers just right in their own fashion.
“It means a lot because, just being here is such a blessing in every aspect and the fact that we all got to come here together was even better,” said Loukojarvi.  “We went through a lot of adversity, but we definitely battled through it and we ended up here and that’s a good way to end the season.”
A good way to end the season.
Great way to put it.
Some would be lucky to get to the Elite 8 once in their four-years, perhaps twice.  Others may reach the Title Game once in four years if that.  The Lady Cougars not just went to the Elite 8 once, but four-times.  Some teams may reach the State Title game once-in-a-blue moon, Cascade got their twice in four-years.
And though they walked away with second-place, second-place in all of 4A in the State of Oregon in any given years is just something awesome.  The Lady Cougar senior class got to say they got that honor twice, and though they wanted first as much as the community of Turner does, they’ll remember it 10, 20, 30 years down the line these memories they’ve created over the last four years.
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North Marion Head Coach Trevor Bodine embraces Wright after the game in respect of the senior (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)
As Wright, Loukojarvi, Woods, Olson, Molan, Riley Bangert, Kirstin Cade and Gracie Rasmussen leave the program, their passion and heart they brought day-in and day-out for the game they love is the message that they hope to leave behind for the younger generation.
“We packed the passion and the heart that we built here at Cascade the last four years, you know we love it,” said Wright.  “I just wanted to thank the community for coming to supporting.  It’s a amazing feeling knowing you have all the support.  Win, lose or draw, it’s a basketball game.”
Wright had a golden moment that was a great ending to the game.  As her team got the ball back off a Bangert rebound with eight seconds left in the game, Bangert passed to Wright as she dribbled up the court one last time and crossed half-court.
She powered up and drove to the hoop ride down the middle of the lane almost and laid it in with four seconds remaining.
The Cascade crowd roared to life, and as she regained her balance and started to run up the court, she pointed to the Cougar crowd as if she said she did it for them.
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