By Jeremy McDonald
GERVAIS, Ore.– It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Western Christian Girls Basketball team, but here they were in the second half hanging with one of the State Favorites to reach the State Title Game in Gervais with an opportunity to reach the Tri-River Conference League Playoff finals. Trailing the Cougars 27-20 midway through the third quarter.
Up to this point in the league season, Gervais had only had one close game and that was to these Pioneers of Western Christian when the Cougs won that game 47-37 on January 27. And Western can point towards them knowing their roles and executing them that helped them knock on the door before Gervais pulled away in the 42-28 victory Wednesday night. Showing the fruits of their labor as the State Playoffs looms for both teams.
“We’re just a team, we have to have Haley (Miersma) , we have to have Run(on Muroya), everyone has a role and when they perform that role we play really, really well. We help our teammates, we all collectively go in with the same goal and then we just run our role,” the Pioneers Madi Nicoli describes. “Coming this far and ending this well in our league, I honestly couldn’t’ve imagined it. I didn’t think that was going to happen this year because we have a young team, but I’m really proud. I couldn’t really do it without Madi (Hull), John (Hice) and Julie (Sladek), our freshmen stepping up…that’s going to be our big push into the playoffs. I’m excited, but I’m really proud of these girls because we worked really hard.”
The Western Christian pressure and scrappiness were coming, Gervais knew it was. And despite their early slow start, they were hanging onto a lead before beginning to pull away over the final 4:26 of the quarter, finishing the third quarter on a 8-2 run and turned to their strength in their defense to close out the game as they’ll host a Salem Academy squad at full-strength for the chance to lock up the top-seed going into the 2A State Playoffs.
Working harder in practice, coming out sharper and playing sharper will be key as Friday’s game will be a rematch of last year’s TRC League Playoff Title game and third time that the Cougars have reached this game since 2019.
“We knew it was coming. We knew they’re going to be scrappy, really scrappy and coming out and pressure us. At first we were pretty flustered with that, we had a lot of turnovers. But then in the third quarter, we talked about it at halftime and fixed the things we needed to work on,” Gervais’ Olivia Boyd said of Western Christian. “Our defense was pretty good tonight, that was one of the things we’ve worked on. We’re going to need that against Salem Academy, especially now that back with all of their players, Practice, work harder. Definitely not get as many turnovers as we did tonight, take care of the ball and come out stronger.”
Boyd finished with eight points. Josie Schultz and Addy McCargar each led the Cougars with ten points and Izzy Boyd had nine points in the win. Muroya led the Pioneers with 17 points, Nicoli and Ady Slaughter each contributed four points for the Pioneers.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald