If Mountainside's Cameron Brink was a bit rusty after sitting out five games with an injured left ankle, it didn't show Friday night.
Brink was a force at both ends of the floor in her return the Mountainside lineup, finishing with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocked shots to lead the Mavericks to a 41-39 road win over No. 5-seeded Oregon City in Friday's second round of the OSAA 6A girls basketball playoffs.
Oregon City rallied from a 12-point deficit to tie the score 39-39 before Mountainside's Shaylee Gonzalez knocked down two free throws with 4.9 seconds left to help send the Mavericks (18-9) into Wednesday's quarterfinals at the University of Portland's Chiles Center.
"Amazing," Brink said. "This has been a goal of ours. We always say, 'Think Purple,' when we talk about making it to the Chiles Center, so we're extremely excited."
Brink injured her left ankle in Mountainside's 68-46 Metro League home win over Jesuit on Feb. 11 and there was speculation that the 6-foot-5, Stanford-bound post might be finished for the season.
She sat out the Mustangs' 54-29 win over South Eugene in Tuesday's playoff opener and then gave herself the green light to play Friday.
"Probably two days ago, I knew I was going to play. At least I wanted to try," said Brink, who led Southridge to state titles in 2017 and 2018 before transferring to Mountainside for her senior season. "It meant the world just to come out and show the state what we can do."
There was no question Mountainside was a different team with Brink on the floor
"Yeah, it was a plus to have her back," Mustangs coach Glen Lee said. "At the same time, we saw a lot of growth in the five games she was gone. But she gives us another dimension that makes us very dangerous.
"We didn't hit our outside shots as well as we would have liked tonight, but you can tell what's there, though."
Oregon City assumed Brink was going to play and had prepared accordingly, but there was only so much the Pioneers could do with a starting lineup that goes 5-11, 5-7, 5-7, 5-5, and 5-4.
"Defensively alone, with Cameron in the key, you're not going to get much up in there," Oregon City coach Tiffani Traver said. "She's an excellent shot-blocker and very smart about not using her body and not committing fouls, instead just using her length.
"And then offensively, obviously, she's hard to match. So, when she's on the low block and we have a kid in front and another behind, but they maybe go up to her shoulder with their hands, she does a really good job of keeping the ball high and scoring there."
Brink wasn't in Friday's starting lineup, but came off the Mountainside bench with 6:01 to play in the first quarter and scored seven quick points as the Mustangs jumped out to a 20-9 lead.
Mountainside's Carly Stone knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner to give the Mustangs their largest lead of the night at 31-19 with 5:30 to play in the third quarter, but Oregon City wasn't finished.
The Pioneers closed the third quarter on a 10-4 run to climb within 35-29, and then opened the fourth quarter with another 10-4 burst, tying the score at 39-39 when Tyra Bradford converted one of two free throws with 2:37 to play.
After Brink missed the front end of a one-and-one with 37.3 seconds left and Katie Kathan grabbed the rebound for Oregon City, the Pioneers called a timeout with 32.1 seconds left to talk things over.
"Our goal was to get the last shot there and we were going to attack at 10 seconds," Traver said. "We were hoping to either get a foul, get a bucket, or get the rebound."
Kathan, the 5-foot-7 senior guard, ended up with the ball as the clock ticked inside of 10 seconds and drove the left side of the lane, putting up a short jumper over Brink that missed the mark.
In the battle for the rebound, Oregon City's Emmaly Welch fouled Gonzalez, sending the Mavericks sophomore forward to the foul line for another one-and-one with 4.9 seconds left.
Gonzalez swished the first free throw and then got a generous bounce to go her way on the second, giving the Mavericks a 41-39 lead.
"Obviously, it was nerve-wracking going to the free-throw line in that situation," Gonzalez said. "I think I was shaking a little bit. It felt really good to make both free throws."
After another Oregon City timeout, Bradford caught the inbound pass on the run out of the backcourt, but her attempt at a 3-pointer from just inside the mid-court line got blocked from behind by Brink as time expired.
"It was definitely a tough loss, but we came out and battled," Bradford said. "We had a tough first half, but then we came back in the second half and played harder and we were better defensively.
"Honestly, our shots weren't really falling tonight, but that's not really an excuse. Mountainside came ready to play and it was just a tough one."
By the numbers
Mountainside's Halle Hageman and Stone finished with eight points each, and Lindsey Wilson and Gonzalez added six each as the Mustangs reached the state quarterfinals in only their second season with a varsity program.
"Those are the toughest ones to close out because there's a lot of emotion riding on it and every possession is key," Lee said. "Oregon City's comeback was phenomenal, but you knew it was coming because everybody was getting tight.
"If the tables were turned, we would have done the same thing. That's just the nature of the game."
Mia Martineau and Kathan finished with 13 points each to lead Oregon City, which outscored Mountainside in every quarter but the first.
"We came out and we were a little tight," Traver said. "Part of that I think is just our lack of experience in this situation. And then playing a team that is very talented and obviously has one of the best players in the state on their team was a factor.
"There was some question about whether she was playing or not. We assumed she was, knowing the type of competitor she is, so we were prepared for her, but then just got a little frazzled in the first quarter. Even being down 11 in the first quarter, we came back to tie it and then had a shot at the end to win it or at least take the lead. We can't hang our heads about that."
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