Madras girls basketball team brings top game to Coos Bay
Last weekend at the Marshfield Les Schwab Tournament, the Madras girls basketball team shrugged a monkey off its back — one that had lingered for a long time.
Twice in the past four seasons, the Lady Buffs have faced Sutherlin, and both times they lost by at least 20 points.
Sutherlin, by the way, has won the 4A state championship in each of those seasons.
Last Friday, Madras got another crack at a true girls basketball goliath in Sutherlin, but on their third attempt, the Lady Buffs conquered it. The game they played, and the end result, a 36-17 win, offered a glimpse of how much this Madras team has bought into playing tough-minded defense.
Although Madras struggled to make baskets, it made sure Sutherlin had more difficulty generating offense. Sutherlin had more turnovers (10) than it did shot attempts (five) in the first quarter, and by halftime, Sutherlin managed to score just five points.
"Just hearing the word Sutherlin is intimidating for a lot of people around the state mentally, because they've had so much success," Madras head coach Zach Lillebo said. "That was a good win for our girls. You could tell our girls were really excited about that win, more so than any win that we've had this year."
The Buffs forced north of 30 turnovers against Sutherlin, stepping into Sutherlin passing lanes and putting the pressure on in the backcourt.
"They just struggled to score against us," Lillebo said. "Most times, they struggled to get the ball down the court and set up an offense. Our girls were very patient on that defensive end."
Lynden Harry had a game-high 10 points for Madras, and Jiana Smith-Francis added nine. Those two accounted for over half of the Buffs' points, though several others made marks on the game with hustle plays — forcing turnovers and grabbing offensive rebounds.
"It was more of a not payback type deal, but, 'OK, this is our chance,'" Lillebo said. "Especially for our four seniors, we haven't beat Sutherlin ... It wasn't close. Had our shots fallen, the 36-17 victory probably would've been closer to 60."
Saturday's resounding victory came on the heels of a 56-28 win over North Bend the previous night. Freshman Jayden Davis led the Buffs with 15 points in what was their best offensive game of the tournament. Starters Vanessa Culps and Harry chipped in 10 and eight points respectively, and the Buffs got a big boost from their reserves. The likes of Jackie Zamora, Annie Whipple, Jalaney Suppah and Kaliyah Iverson combined for 17 bench points.
"That's key; we need those people, our sixth through 10th man, to come in and give us a boost," Lillebo said.
The first two wins earned Madras a spot in the championship game against Marshfield, the home team from Coos Bay. Marshfield came into the game ranked No. 1 in 4A, and Lillebo described the game as the Buffs' first true test.
Marshfield, currently ranked No. 1 in 4A, is known for its full-court press, but chose to drop back and play half-court defense. That, combined with Marshfield's size, played a big part in Madras shooting 31 percent in the game. The Buffs eventually lost 57-45.
"(Head coach) Bruce Bryant, (assistant) Marty Stallard ... They had a gameplan," Lillebo said. "They pulled their full-court press in the first half and they've pressed every team this year. They just got back, played solid man-to-man defense and kept most of our shots contested."
The all-tournament team consisted of Harry, Iverson, Smith-Francis, plus Hailey Browning and Tess Garrett of Marshfield. Garrett was named MVP.
Although Madras was unable to take home the first-place trophy, the weekend was a pivotal one early in the season. As of Monday night, the Buffs were ranked No. 3 on the OSAA's 4A girls basketball rankings. That rank is meaningless now, but it is indicative of the Buffs' strong start to their season.
On Tuesday, Madras returned home to face Cottage Grove, which ended the Buffs' 2016-17 season in a 4A play-in game. The result of that game wasn't final at press time.