The Falcons fall to the Trojans, then lose to St. Paul to place fifth in the state tourney.

COURTESY PHOTO: KATHY ANEY - Faith Bible's Anna Goodloe studies a free throw attemptduring the Falcons' state semifinal game against Kennedy March 2 at the Pendleton Convention Center.Faith Bible's state championship run ends with semifinal loss to Kennedy

A year removed from a heartbreaking loss a game shy of the OSAA 2A State Basketball Tournament, the Faith Bible Falcons were now just a win away from the school's first ever appearance in the state championship game. But standing between them and that opportunity were the No. 1-ranked Kennedy Trojans — and they had something else in mind.

Kennedy used a dominating first half effort on the boards to build a double-digit lead, then repeatedly turned back second half Faith comeback attempts en route to a 52-42 semifinal victory March 1 at the Pendleton Convention Center in Pendleton, Oregon.

"Everything didn't go against us, but we just didn't get the things we needed to go for us to come away with a victory," said Faith Bible head coach Eddie Kirkpatrick. "But the girls have nothing to be ashamed of. We gave it our best shot."

The Trojans doubled Faith in first-half rebounds, and while shooting a similar percentage, were able to build a lead based solely on their heightened number of attempts.

"The boards were a huge part of it," said Kirkpatrick. "There were so many that looked like they were going to go our way, but they got knocked from our hands or they (Kennedy) just came up with it. We were just never able to put together a run, which never allowed us to get six or eight points in a row to get the necessary momentum to push them."

Kennedy was led by posts Sophia Carley and Kalyssa Kleinschmit who combined for 25 points and 20 rebounds, including the bulk of the Trojans' points in the first, to take a 13-7 opening quarter lead.

The two teams traded baskets throughout the second, Faith getting scores from Sarah and Katie Fajer, along with free throws from Yolanta Penn, while the Trojans used a deep attack consisting of Ibeth Gomez, Abby Frey, Molly Jaeger and Hannah Arritola to take a 26-17 lead to the half.

Faith opened the third quarter looking to make a run, desperately needing to cut into what was slowly appearing to be an insurmountable Kennedy lead. But after eight early Carley and Kleinschmit points pushed the Trojan lead to 15, the Falcons' battle became increasingly more uphill.

"We rely on transition and it just wasn't happening," said Kirkpatrick. "We were either missing lay-ins or making bad passes and we just couldn't get a run."

COURTESY PHOTO: KATHY ANEY - Faith Bible's Katie Fajer goes up for a shot during the Falcons' state semifinal game against Kennedy March 2 at the Pendleton Convention Center.
Trailing by 15 after three, the Falcons closed to within 42-31 with two quick Katie Fajer baskets to start the fourth, but Carley — with a little help from Jaeger — kept Faith at bay for the remainder of the game, putting the Trojans in the state final, while ending the Falcons' state championship dreams.

"We were hoping to get two to five three pointers at some point to get things going and get points fast," Kirkpatrick said. "But we didn't hit a single three and didn't get the defensive stops when we needed them."

Despite the defeat, Kirkpatrick was proud of his girls performance and equally proud of their effort in the face of the state's top-ranked team.

"Playing number one, we were excited about the opportunity to see how we matched up, and after a couple minutes we saw that we could play with them, and also thought we could beat them," said the coach. "But it's up to us to go out there and do it. Even though the girls put forth their best effort, we just didn't execute well enough to win. They were a better team today."

And as it turned out, they were better than everyone. Kennedy went on to defeat Monroe in the state final, while Faith Bible would settle for fifth place after losing 47-36 to St. Paul in the third place game March 3.

Katie Fajer was named to the All-Tournament First Team, while her sister Sarah was selected Second-Team.

Faith finished the season 26-4 and while disappointed in how things ended, Kirkpatrick was quick to acknowledge the upside to what was ultimately a historically successful year.

"I am so grateful I was able to be a part of this historic journey with this amazing group of girls," he said. "They worked so hard this year to do something that our school has never done before. To be playing our best basketball right at the end of the season and going to Pendleton and playing in the final four is something I will never forget. The memories made this season with these amazing girls will be something I cherish the rest of my life, and these seniors are leaving a legacy behind and a tradition of excellence that will not soon be forgotten."

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