By Jeremy McDonald
PENDLETON, Ore.– It’s been since the Covid-Shortened season since Gervais last won a final site game and first time since 1994 that they won at Pendleton. They’ve achieved both Thursday afternoon against Western Christian 38-28 to advance to Friday afternoon’s semifinals against Monroe/Alsea with a shot at the 2A State Title at stake on Saturday.
But it was almost the nightmarish ending to yet another great season for the Cougars, faced with a 16-10 deficit late into the second quarter on the heels of back-to-back Runon Muyora’s three-pointers that had the Pioneers riding high as they were. Western Christian led 16-13 at halftime before Gervais made their move in the third quarter.
“Our defense just clicked with our pack in to try to stop their big girls. We knew that they were going to keep the ball out of Runon’s hands, she’s our main girl, so we had some counters with that in trying to get other girls the ball like Haley (Miersma), Madi (Nicoli) and Addy (Slaughter) and trying to get them to score to take some pressure off of Runon. Thankfully we were able to do that and Runon was a great facilitator and they were a great facilitator for her too, so there were some extra movements that we put in there,” Western Christian Head Coach Madi Hull said. “Once (Gervais) went into that match-up zone, that’s where we didn’t have a counter for that. That’s kind of what happened, a match-up zone and then they started hitting shots.”
Enter Ava Sellers. The Cougar senior hit three-straight three-pointers to turn a then 18-17 deficit into a 26-20 lead in a span of roughly two minutes, add in a Addy McCargar three-pointer at the 2:01 mark and momentum had swung in favor of Gervais, who were on a 12-0 run at the time and part of a 16-4 quarter. A momentum swing that saw the Cougs rode to the finish line and finally putting to bed the Pendleton Drought as they now turned their focus to the Dragons.
“We definitely picked up the defensive intensity a lot, we tried to shut down number 15 (Muroya) the best that we could and our shots just started falling,” Sellers said. “(Head Coach Enrique Sandoval) was like, ‘we got this’, Most of us have been here before, we just have to settle in and do what we know what to do. The nerves were off and it was just play…Settle the nerves down, this game was great going into tomorrow.”\
Sellers led the Cougars with 16 points , three rebounds and two steals. Muroya led the Pioneers with 17 points, eight rebounds and three steals Nicoli had a game-high 11 rebounds for Western Christian while McCargar contributed another ten points in the win.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald