Woodburn girls win middle school title
Some basketball programs toil away for years trying to build the right formula of skill, work ethic and teamwork needed to bring home a state championship. But the Woodburn girls sixth-grade team coached by George Sandoval and Amy Blem-Ramirez needed just two.
The Bulldogs put the finishing touches on a stellar 2017-18 winter season on March 4, defeating the Sherwood Bowmen 31-28 at Ridgeview High School in the silver bracket title game of the Oregon State Middle School Championship tournament.
It was the first state championship for the Woodburn girls middle school AAU program, which is in just its second season after forming prior to the 2016-17 season.
"We've got a different variety of kids here," Sandoval said. "When we go into the game, we know we're going to have to outwork the other team. We work hard as a team, and the rest will fall into place."
The sixth grade girls were one of seven teams from Woodburn and North Marion to qualify for the boys and girls middle school state championship tournament in March. The girls tournament was held March 2-4, while the boys played this past Friday through Sunday, with both events being spread between venues in Bend, Redmond and Sisters.
Sandoval coached at the eighth-grade level last year before joining Blem-Ramirez with the sixth-grade team this year, and he saw the signs of something special early on in the season.
"Every girl is special in their individual way," Sandoval said. "They're so full of energy. They're so full of energy. Two of them it's their first year playing. The other seven are just clicking."
In order to qualify for the state tournament, a team must finish either first or second in a qualifying tournament during the regular season. Sandoval and Blem-Ramirez's team did so multiple times, giving the coaching duo an idea of what was yet to come at the state tournament.
When the Bulldogs got there, they made short work of the competition in pool play, defeating the Bonanza Antlers 40-14 and the Clackamas Cavaliers 47-8. Woodburn's 22 points surrendered were the lowest-combined total between the 12 teams in the tournament bracket, a product of the team's energy and hustle on the defensive side of the ball.
"We have a really good press," Sandoval said. "Our girls have so much energy – they just come out and play."
The semifinals were another clean sweep, with the Bulldogs taking out the Sellwood Kangaroos 47-31 to advance to the championship game against the Bowmen later that afternoon.
Unlike their previous opponents, Sherwood didn't just hang with the Bulldogs, but outplayed them for large portions of the game. For a team that hadn't trailed in the previous two tournaments, it was a tough reality check for the Bulldogs.
"There was probably two different times the girls had a chance to quit," Sandoval said. "We were down by two points at halftime. The way their bodies were, it looked like we were down by 20."
Sandoval told the team that they simply had to weather Sherwood's run and respond with one of their own, and they did so in the second half, employing a zone defense to disrupt the Bowmen's offense and take an eight-point lead with five minutes left in the game.
But Sherwood wasn't done. The Bowmen recovered in the final minutes, taking a 28-26 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Woodburn tied it up on their next possession and took the lead for good on a bucket to go up 30-28. The Bulldogs hit 1-of-2 free throws down the stretch to extend their lead and rode out the final seconds for the victory.
The title brings with it an opportunity to play in the National Championship tournament, but with little budget to take a team of 10 girls and their families out of state, the Bulldogs are simply happy to be enjoy the moment and get ready for spring basketball.
Girls 8th Grade Silver
Woodburn Bulldogs — Unranked (2-2)
The Bulldogs rebounded from going winless in pool play by posting back-to-back victories to finish their weekend tournament at 2-2.
Woodburn opened the tournament with a 37-36 loss to the Central Panthers on March 3 and followed with a 44-27 loss to the Madras White Buffalos later that morning to finish at the bottom of their pool.
But the Bulldogs responded on the back end of the tournament, defeating the Cleveland Warriors 43-34 in the evening and finishing with a 41-34 win over the Crook County Colts on March 4.
North Marion Huskies — 3rd (4-1)
The North Marion Huskies responded from a loss in the state semifinals to finish third in their bracket with a 40-31 win over the Putnam Kingsmen on Sunday.
The Huskies opened the tournament with a 30-28 win over Tigard on Friday and followed with a 25-24 victory against the Banks Braves in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
That led to a semifinal game against Warrenton, which the Huskies lost 39-31, before the team finished the weekend with the win against Putnam.
Boys 6th Grade Silver
North Marion Huskies — 2nd (4-1)
The Huskies went 4-1 over the weekend, advancing to the state championship game against Baker, where they lost 74-27 to finish second overall.
Prior to the loss, North Marion entered the title game behind a streak of victories, going unbeaten with a 48-28 win over Summit on Friday and a 63-58 victory over Philomath on Saturday. The Huskies followed with a 56-52 win over Silverton to advance to the bracket semifinals, where they beat the Beaverton Black team 49-20 to earn a trip to the title game against Baker.
Woodburn Bulldogs — 6th (2-2)
The Bulldogs opened the state tournament strong, going unbeaten in pool play to advance to the championship bracket. Woodburn defeated Willamette 46-20 on Saturday and followed with a 41-36 win over Barlow later in the afternoon to win their pool and earn an automatic berth to the quarterfinals.
The Bulldogs fell to Beaverton Black 53-44 to drop to the consolation bracket, where they lost 35-15 to Silverton to finish sixth.
Boys 7th Grade Silver
Woodburn Bulldogs — Unranked (2-2)
Woodburn split its opening two games in pool play and went on to finish 2-2 on the weekend in the silver bracket.
The Bulldogs opened with a 51-45 win over Central on Saturday morning and followed with a 49-32 loss to Glencoe in the afternoon game to finish at the bottom of a three-way tie in pool play.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs fell 61-32 to LaGrande, but wrapped up their trip on a high note by defeating the Sheldon Irish 50-31 in the evening.
Boys 8th Grade Silver
Woodburn Bulldogs — 2nd (5-1)
The Bulldogs went undefeated in pool play en route to a championship appearance, where they fell 68-55 to the Marshfield Pirates on Sunday.
Woodburn opened the tournament with four consecutive victories in the opening rounds, defeating Bend 59-38 on Friday before beating Sandy 73-52 on Saturday morning.
The Bulldogs followed with a 63-39 win over North Eugene in the afternoon game and completed their perfect run with a 62-44 win against South Medford that evening to advance to the state semifinals.
There, they took out the Banks Braves by 67-55 margin to earn a shot at the title, where they fell to the Pirates to finish second.