Girls basketball: Gervais hits stride with highest ranking in years
Late in the fourth quarter of the Gervais girls basketball team's road game at Regis High School on Thursday, the Cougars inbounded the ball, took it down the court and scored a layup to extend their lead in the 43-36 win over the Rams.
It all happened in about 6 seconds and without the Cougars dribbling the ball once.
"I turned to the bench and said, 'The ball never touched the ground,'" Gervais head coach Kyle Buse said. "See what happens when we move the ball and pass it around?"
The Rams were attempting a last-minute rally by employing a full-court press against the Cougars, but Gervais simply whipped the ball around the court from player to player until the team found an open player under the basket for an easy two points.
It was indicative of the kind of team basketball that the No. 10 Cougars (6-2) has been playing in the first three weeks of the season, but as good as the Cougars looked in their win over Regis (1-7), the team missed plenty of opportunities to make it a much more lopsided victory.
"We missed a lot of lay-ins and a lot of shots," Buse said. "They're shots that we take in practice and make every day. We make those and that score represents a little bit more the level that we can play at."
And that's what excites the Cougars as the team heads into its final week of play in December. The team continues to enjoy its best start since the 2012-13 season, but Buse knows there's so much more room for improvement.
In both games last week at the Amity Warrior Classic tournament, Gervais had to rally back from early deficits before turning it on in the second half for double-digit wins over Umatilla and Amity. In each of the Cougars' victories during their current four-game winning streak, the team has outscored its opponents in the second half.
It's an identity the girls are adopting and one that Buse grudgingly accepts — he'd prefer to play just as well in the first half of games as the team has been playing in the second half. Whatever the identity the team takes in, though, he's glad that they're doing so collectively — coming together as starters and bench players, seniors and freshmen, everybody working for a common goal.
"I'd rather not have to be that team, but they're embracing it and that's the best part — they're just enjoying the company of each other," Buse said. "You see our bench, they're out there yelling and screaming at people and making sure they're working hard."
Senior Karina Ramos led the Cougars with 10 points in the win over Regis. The next two top scorers were freshmen Lily Welburn and Katie Hanson, who each had nine.
The results are hard to ignore. The last time Gervais had this good of a start was also the last time the team had a winning record. As fun as last year's improbable state playoff run was, the team was still just 11-14. This year, the Cougars are winning games that they normally haven't won in seasons past, including the victory over the Warriors in the title game of the Amity tournament.
"The Amity win was huge," Buse said. "That was a top-10 team, a respectable team. In my coaching career, I had never beaten Amity, so that was a personal goal."
That victory bumped the Cougars up to No. 6 in the OSAA state rankings. The team actually dropped down to No. 10 after the win over Regis due to the Rams' poor record, but with every week passing and every win tallied up in the standings, Gervais is slowly starting to prove that its record is not a hot start or a fluke, but an indicator of what's to come in 2018.
Gervais closes out the month of December this week at the Salem Academy Tournament Thursday through Saturday. The Cougars then turn to the PacWest Conference in January with their league opener at Scio (1-6) on Jan. 3.