By Jeremy McDonald
GERVAIS, Ore.– If you want to get one of the two automatic bids to the postseason from the Tri-River Conference, you must get through Gervais to do it following their 17th win of the season over Culver 44-28.
For the tenth-ranked Cougars, the pressure was on them to win against Culver. A loss would tie them with Western Christian with five league losses and would need the Bulldogs to beat the Pioneers later this week to hand them the second-seed entering the league playoffs.
With the additional pressure of a full house for Senior Night and honoring Miss James’ 50-years of working the stat-book, Gervais quickly saw their 16-11 lead turn into a 17-16 deficit after two quick baskets by the Culver in the third quarter.
It was like when the teams first met over the hill at Culver on January 14, but as they showed their home crowd as well as a few players from Western Christian and Santiam that came out to scout the game Monday, they weren’t going to be denied. They showed that their game against the Pioneers Friday was a just a small blip on the radar and that this was how they want to play.
“(Gervais Head Coach Kyle) Buse was just telling us, ‘you guys got to pick it up’ and we listen to him. If he tells us that we need to pick it up, we need to pick it up,” said Lilly Welburn as they came out of a timeout.
The young, yet already seasoned Head Coach was right, and Welburn helped spark a 13-2 run with seven third quarter points. Actually, of the 18 third quarter points scored by Gervais, Welburn and Bella Vasquez each had seven points each that turned that brief 17-16 deficit into a 34-24 lead entering the fourth quarter.
It was like a sigh of relief entering the final eight minutes of their regular season with some momentum and to be able to run through their plays after scrambling around initially to start the second half.
“It was relieving really, then we were able to relax and run through things and be able to run plays and work together,” said Alexis Luna, who finished with five points on her Senior Night.
The Cougars continued to roll in the fourth quarter, outscoring Culver 10-4 in the final frame to seal up the second-spot entering the league playoffs and not needing to rely on any other team to help them out to do so.
Gervais will be hosting a league playoff game on February 13, but their opponent will be determined over the next week with the league playoffs starting this weekend.
And when that day and game comes, they’ll take it like any other game.
“It’s just another game, we just got to play it like it’s nothing special and just work hard like we do every game. Every game is that game to us,” said Welburn.