By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Coming off of their first loss of the season to North Marion Friday afternoon, the question became how will they respond? How can they answer with Isabella Vasquez, their starting post, out with an sprained ankle?
In front of them for third-place in the Crusader New Years Invitational Black Braket were a Burns team sitting 10-2 and Top 5 in 3A entering Saturday morning’s game.
But the Cougars answered their 31-28 defeat to the Huskies with an 42-34 victory over the Hilanders to pick up their tenth game of the year.
It wasn’t pretty, as Gervais had their opportunities early to add to their total behind their defense, but the score held strong at 6-4 in favor of the Cougs three minutes into the second quarter before shots began to fall. By halftime Gervais led 19-12 over their Eastern Oregon opposition.
“We didn’t know much about Burns, we tried to get as much information as we could on the run. Our plan was to run our game plan and we had to remind them of our game-plan, but we were able to execute it, that was the good part,” said Head Coach Kyle Buse.
Initially Santiam were suppose to play Gervais, but a request by Burns to play an earlier game last second to get home earlier opened the door for better match-ups for the three teams as the Wolverines went on to play Portland Adventist Academy which allowed the Highlanders and Cougars to play for third-place in the bracket finale.
Allie Hueckman finished with 19 points for Burns while Lilly Welburn finished with 14 for Gervais Saturday in a game where the aftershocks of their first loss of the season disappeared after tip and slow start to the game.
Friday’s game was their closest game of the year, their second closest before Saturday was against Amity Thrusday. The Cougars won that game 56-38.
Fired up, and knowing Kennedy were in the on-deck circle Tuesday night in Mount Angel, Gervais didn’t want to go away from this weekend without some kind of momentum for the Trojans.
“It was a good lesson that we need to play four quarters. It prepared us for today, it prepared us for another good school and another good school on Tuesday,” said Welburn of Friday’s defeat. “I felt like once we lost it was like, ‘alright. No more.’ We have to be able to play the whole time. No fouls.”
The Cougars pushed their lead to 29-19 after three quarters before Hueckman landed a three with 2:25 left in the game that sparked the Highlanders to get back to within five of Gervais at 36-31 before the Cougs closed out the win in the final moments of the game.
The biggest thing for them Day 3 of the tournament compare to Day 2 was their ability to slow down the game and being able to figure things out on both sides of the ball.
“We just slowed it down, we were a little more patient. We weren’t pushing the ball a lot. Some teams you can do that, other’s you can’t. We were more focused on playing good defense, get the rebound and then go execute,” said Buse. “Once we slowed down and changed our mindset, I think we were able to pull away a little bit more and finish our shots because we were able to open up our eyes and see things.
“So that was helpful for us.”