By Jeremy McDonald
JEFFERSON, Ore.– Sheridan’s Haley Ayala put her team on her back in the second half against Jefferson Friday night. The Lions had just taken a 34-28 lead after the Spartans were ahead 28-24 in the third quarter of the PacWest Conference game and, for the senior, knowing what was at stake as her senior year drew to an end.
Torn meniscus or not, the senior scored ten of her 19 points as Sheridan tied things up at 36 with 3:39 left in the game of Jefferson’s 46-38 win. The tie came off of a pair of free throws by Ayala that capped a 8-2 run by the traveling Spartan squad.
“Me leading as a senior, they look up to me and if I make a mental error, it brings the whole team down and I gotta really work on that. It’s like being a leader out there, they look up to me and they want to copy things. It’s going to take a lot to finish the season strong because we want to make it to the playoffs. I don’t want my year to end, not yet at least and just really fighting and taking this game into practice and learning from our mistakes and mentally being there for the next few games,” Ayala said.
It was just one of those mental tests for both teams. Errors occurred, but each team had their moments of sound basketball. And with the game being a game of runs, Jefferson had theirs out of the halftime break, Sheridan followed, the Lions settled back down and had themselves a run. A run that helped the squad clinch their 11th win of the season and to hold steady in fourth-place in the conference with Sheridan on their heels at the start of the game and Taft within reach for third.
“We had to make sure we kept talking throughout the game and we were encouraging to each other, because often when we lose games like that we start to beat up on each other and get down on each other. We did a good job cheering each other on and had positive encouragement,” said Jefferson’s Emily Kunkel. “We’re trying to focus on one-game-at-a-time. No matter how challenging it is, we’re just focusing on now and not focusing on any games in the future. We’re just trying to focus and stay present.”
And being present will be important for both teams knowing only three teams will head to the 3A Playoffs at the end of the regular season and league playoffs with Jefferson finishing the game on a 10-2 run.
Kunkel finished with 13 points. Gretchen Orton led the Lions with 16 points. Taylor Givens had ten points for the Spartans.
The Sheridan boys defeated Jefferson 52-49. Cesar Casillas led the Spartans with 14 points.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald