By Jeremy McDonald
GERVAIS, Ore.– Gervais put Kennedy on-watch when the Cougars jumped out to a 26-18 halftime lead on the Trojans Friday night.
On-watch in that, when they’re on, Gervais can compete with the best teams in 2A despite the 45-40 result in favor of their Mt. Angel opposition.
“We knew we had to push the ball and just play our game and not theirs. Not play fast-paced, we just had to work together and do what we do,” said the Cougars Celi Vasquez.
Vasquez, a known three-point specialist for Gervais, scored 17 first half points with three three-pointers in a half that saw the Cougars separated themselves by the halftime break.
Kennedy’s Hailey Arritola joked that they had to change their game-plan into the second half about Vasquez, who only scored two points in the second half.
“The big thing is that she’s a three-point shooter so you have to have an hand in her face at all times or else she’s going to drain the three’s with ease,” said Arritola. “So that was our main focus going into the second half because she was making them in the first. We had to put someone in their face.”
As much as their defense has been their vocal point traditionally going up against another strong defense in front of them with Gervais, the Trojans found the one advantage with their offense with their six-one forward Sophia Carley.
Carley, who scored 10 first half points, added another seven in the third quarter including 3-for-5 at the free throw line that saw Kennedy chip back into the game. The Trojans briefly led 30-28 after Arritola handed Kennedy the lead after a strong defensive performance in the third quarter, but the Cougars led 36-34 entering the fourth quarter.
“We really focused on defense, the first half was kind of rough so we came out there and gave it our all,” said Carley, who finished with 21 points in the game. “We realized that we had to play really hard because we know they were going to play their very best against us, (Gervais) did awesome. That was a really fun game.”
For a Gervais squad that has faced some high quality teams with this nucleus with Blanchet Catholic, Salem Academy and the last year-and-a-half with Kennedy, they were looking for that statement win against one of those powerhouse teams.
Cougar freshman Izzy Boyd made some clutch free throws to put Gervais ahead 40-38 before Carley tied the game and Ellie Cantu handed the lead back to the Trojans 42-40 with 1:28 left in the game.
And as the Trojans defense clamped down and Arritola went 3-for-4 at the line down the stretch, there was a sense that the Cougars had arrived as Gervais looks for the trilogy rematch in the Tri-River Conference league playoffs.
“It showed us that we can,” said Boyd. “Like they’ve been our rival for so long, being this close that we can contend at the same level with them. We’re this close. We’re going to get ready for league championships, we’re going to go and play as hard as we can and go from there.”
Elise Suing scored ten points for Kennedy and Bella Vasquez scored seven for Gervais.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald