By Jeremy McDonald
GERVAIS, Ore.– Bella Vasquez came bursting onto the scene as a freshman with an opposite hand lay-in for Gervais’ 26-24 win over Scio, had sent the Cougars to their first playoff appearance since 2012. The lay-in completed a run from fifth-place to that automatic qualifier in the 3A PacWest Conference that set-up a match with eventual State Runner-Up Dayton in the opening round of the 3A Playoffs in 2017.
Over the next three years, Vasquez and her Gervais teammates had continued to improve, eventually reaching Pendleton this past Winter. The Cougars first trip to the Final Site in 25 years.
The trip capped an incredible High School career for Vasquez, who announced Wednesday on Twitter that she will be continuing her athletic career at Chemeketa Community College in Basketball.
“The Gervais team since my freshman year has taken bigger steps through the years. We accomplish our goal this year to get to state, but the lights might have been to big for us. Even though I’m not going to be there next year I have confidence in my girls to go to state again and take the next step forward,” said Vasquez. “I’m going to miss playing with the girls so much but I trust them to take Gervais girls basketball to the next level. I especially can’t wait to go watch it happen because I will still be local!”
For Head Coach Kyle Buse, he’s seen Vasquez developed into the player she is today. Four years in High School, three years prior to that. Seeing Vasquez overcome a knee injury her sophomore year to return her Junior and Senior year, making playoffs both years as well with her freshman year. Her sophomore year was the only year the Cougars did not make the postseason.
“She has really developed leadership through natural maturity as a senior plus she has focused on weak areas of her game. She began working on her outside shot, ball handling and overall decision-making skills. Bella also grew into one of our “go to” players in the season,” said Buse.
“I’m happy to see her comeback from the injury that she had. She lost some confidence I feel like during that time but it came at a time where she knee, she would be back. Last year was her bounce back and senior year was her break out.”
Vasquez is the first-player since Buse took over as Head Coach of the Gervais basketball team.
The Senior received first-team Tri-River Conference, second-team All Tournament where she averaged eight points, 5.5 rebounds and two steals in two games in Pendleton in early March and was named to the third-team All-State team as a Senior.
The Storm had a strong freshman class in 2020 that went 12-16 and 7-9 in NWAC South Region, three games out of the fourth-and-final spot for the NWAC Playoffs. With the challenges ahead, Vasquez is ready to embrace them entering her freshman year in the Fall.
“The biggest I think is to listen. I have had Coach Buse for a long as I can remember. I will be working with new coaches and players. I have to be able to learn from them and absorb what they are going to teach. If I can do that, I feel confident I can improve,” said Vasquez.