By Jeremy McDonald
GERVAIS, Ore.—The highlight of their first three years of playing basketball at Gervais High School was making it to Pendleton last Winter as Juniors.
Their goal was to reach the final site, and their fourth quarter rally against Stanfield had made it a reality as they sat in the gym in which it had happened Friday afternoon.
“That was a goal that we had. When we won the State playoff game against Stanfield it was like, ‘we finally did it. We’re going to Pendleton’. That was probably my favorite,” Katie Hansen said.
“Just getting an opportunity to go to State with my teammates, getting to play with them for so long and just building up more connections with them,” adds Celi Vasquez.
The moment in the making snapped a drought dating back to the 1990’s, since 1995. The community was there to support, packed the gym that faithful February, 2020 night. It was the moment in years in the making.
Third-place in league their freshman year, losing a heartbreaker in John Day against Grant Union the following year before getting over the hump at home their Junior seasons. Putting Gervais back onto the map.
“It’s meant a lot. Starting at a school like where you’re known as ‘oh it’s Gervais’ and then just making a name for ourselves has been something that’s been really big and it’s really special to be a part of,” Hansen said. “For us as players, it’s meant something that we’ve always talked about since we were little that we’ve been building towards.
“As a community though, it’s also a big achievement because they haven’t had anything to be super excited about sports-wise for quite a few years and it really brought the community together.”
For Hansen and Vasquez, they’re now number two and three coming from the Cougars basketball program the last two years to have signed Letter of Intent to play at the next level. Vasquez’ older sister, Bella, signed with Chemeketa following last year as the younger Vasquez will get to join her sister once more in the Fall.
Adding another guard for the Storm with her defense and shooting abilities as it speaks volumes of the program Kyle Buse has built at Gervais.
“It’s pretty awesome. I’m just really excited to even play there next year and see how it goes,” Vasquez said. “It says that we’re very committed to basketball. We’ve worked our butts off all year and we love it so much. The way (Buse) coach and the family, our teammates have built the love and connection, it makes it more memorable.”
Hansen, a State Champion in Track, said the decision to focus on basketball wasn’t a hard one. Her passion and love leaned her towards the game at the next level as she signed with Lower Columbia in Longview, Washington.
“It was pretty easy. I’ve been wanting to play basketball since probably my sophomore year where I decided to do basketball with the option of track, but basketball was what I wanted to focus on,” Hansen said. “It’s meant a lot.”
As the Spring sports season kicks off officially Monday, it’s still up in the air if they’ll have a basketball season here in six weeks or not to make another run as a team or not, but with basketball starting at the Junior College level the past few days it is promising for High School sports here in May.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald