'Underdog' La Salle Prep rolls past Silverton, 57-46, lands in 5A semis
CORVALLIS -- The La Salle Prep girls' basketball showed up at Gill Coliseum with a three-step plan to make a run at what would be their third OSAA Class 5A state championship in five seasons.
The Falcons took care of Step One on Thursday when they knocked on No. 4-ranked Silverton 57-46 behind Emily Niebergall's game-high 15 points, six rebounds, and four assists.
Step Two comes Friday when the No. 5-ranked Falcons (23-4) square off against top-ranked Wilsonville (22-5) at 6:30 p.m. in the first of two semifinals.
And if the Falcons succeed in beating their Northwest Oregon Conference rivals, then they'll advance to Step Three -- a date in Saturday's 8:30 p.m. championship final against either No. 3 Springfield or No. 7 Crater.
But La Salle coach Kelli Wedin isn't looking that far ahead, just yet. She's all about taking first things first.
"Wilsonville is a great team and we're up for the challenge," Wedin said. "We're the underdog. We're just coming in here trying to play loose and trying to play free and just you out there and defend like crazy."
Does Wedin seriously think of her team as the "underdog" in this tournament?
"We're No. 5. Why wouldn't we be?" she said. "Everybody else thinks we're the underdog, so I'm going with what everybody else thinks. And our girls, we just use that as fuel and … yeah, I do."
But this is a different La Salle team than the one that split the two-game, regular-season series with Wilsonville, and the difference is this Falcons' team has a healthy Alyson Miura back in the starting lineup.
Miura, the 5-foot-9 senior who has signed to play at USC next season, is one of the most gifted all-around players in the state across all classifications. And when you combine what she brings to the table with what Addi Wedin, the coach's daughter, and Niebergall and the other La Salle players have to offer, it's hard to think of the Falcons as an "underdog" against anybody.
Thursday's quarterfinal against Silverton was a case in point.
The Falcons raced out to a 37-16 halftime lead while shooting 44.4 percent (12 for 27) from the field, including a blistering 60 percent (9 for 15) from 3-point range with Niebergall (3 for 4) and Miura (3 for 5) doing most of the damage from long distance.
"You've kind of got to pick your poison defending them," Foxes coach Tal Wold said. "We thought we had a good plan, but we also knew it could backfire.
"We'd seen enough for their games to know that Niebergall is good, and we were trying to help off of her because the other two (Miura and Wedin) are so good, you know what I mean?
"It's a little bit like defending our boys' team. Who are you going to help off of? Who are you going to leave? What's your strategy here? We knew that the ultimate goal was to keep the ball in front of us so you don't help, and we knew that was going to be a difficult task because they're so athletic and good with the ball."
At the other end of the court, Silverton struggled to create quality scoring chances against La Salle's tenacious on-ball defense and finished the first half shooting 15.4 percent (4 for 26) from the field and a dismal 8.3 percent (1 for 12) from beyond the arc.
Did La Salle do anything special on defense to throw the Foxes off their game?
"I don't think so," Wold said. "I didn't feel like it. They pressure, and we knew that, but we may have rushed some shots.
"It was a decent game with about two minutes left in the first quarter, and then they went on a huge run and it was easy for us to go, 'I've got to do something for my team.' Your intentions are good, but it almost looks selfish when it's not, and … I thought that was big."
In the second half, La Salle pushed the lead to as many as 23 points when Niebergall muscled her way to the basket for a lay-up that made it 43-20 with 3:02 to play in the third quarter.
After Lauren Vreeken made two free throws to give La Salle a 54-34 lead with 4:16 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Foxes closed the game on a 12-3 run that helped make the final score look a little less lopsided.
"Silverton made some good adjustments in the second half," Kelli Wedin said. "They kind of denied Addi and Alyson, and then we got tight and played back on our heels a little bit, but we did enough."
Miura finished with 12 points and six rebounds, while Addi Wedin chipped in nine points, six rebounds, two assists, and three blocked shots.
Truitt Reilly led Silverton with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, and Riley Traeger added nine points and seven rebounds.
This marks the sixth season in a row that the Falcons have reached the semifinals while playing at Gill Coliseum -- five consecutive seasons playing in the 5A tournament, and one season before that when the 4A tournament was at Gill.
Of those previous five semifinal appearances, the Falcons advanced to the finals four times and went on to win state titles in 2015 and 2017.