By Jeremy McDonald
GERVAIS, Ore.– 26 long years it’s been since the Gervais Girls Basketball team held a home playoff game.
They won State that year, 1994.
Last time they went to Pendleton for the final site before Friday?
The house was packed Friday night. The pressure was on following Stanfield’s strong third quarter that had the Cougars hanging onto a 35-34 lead in their 58-35 win in front of the home crowd, the Tigers were on a 11-5 advantage to pull Gervais back in entering the final frame.
For Gervais, who came to within one game of Pendleton in 2019 and one game of Coos Bay in 2017 when they were in 3A, didn’t want to let their home crowd down in the face of adversity.
“The intensity was high, but we knew we had to keep playing our game. Even though we were on the bench and we had the foul troubles or we were getting tired, we knew we had to push through that wall and put our hearts out in that game,” said Celi Vasquez. “Everyone from back then at Gervais, they came out to support us. We knew we had to put a smile on their faces because it’s been a while.”
The game was briefly tied at 32 late in the third quarter after Gervais held a 30-21 lead moments before, but Izzy Boyd helped hand the Cougs back the lead entering the fourth.
The freshman, known for her fighter spirit with Gervais and unwillingness to go down quietly, scored the first three points of the fourth quarter before Vasquez scored the next eight points to push the Cougars lead to 46-34 with 5:50 left in the game.
“Just being that close to them, I knew we had to do something. We stepped up and we did it. We’re going to State,” said Boyd. “This has been the goal the whole time (Head Coach Kyle Buse) has been here. We’ve been so close, especially last year and now we’re going. It’s awesome.”
It was 25 years in the making as Gervais shared teary-eyed hugs with each other, friends and family following their 23-1 fourth quarter to lock up their first Final Site trip this millennium Friday evening. Boyd scored seven points in the fourth quarter and 12 points overall, Vasquez added another 14 in the game.
Buse, who came up with the mantra of ‘Run Through The Wall’ for his team this year, expected Pendleton this year as the goal and destination.
“We just needed to finish the game. We did our third quarter normally and put it in the fourth,” starts Buse. “The girls know what it meant. They dug deep and went through that wall and they did it together. I’m really proud of them.”
Maggie Sharp led Stanfield with 13 points.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald