La Salle downs Springfield, 55-48, clinches OSAA 5A girls' state title
CORVALLIS -- La Salle Prep's girls basketball team has to go home and make room in the trophy case for another blue one – if that hasn't happened already.
Addi Wedin finished with a team-high 18 points, six rebounds, and two assists, leading the No. 5-ranked Falcons to a 55-48 victory over the No. 3 Springfield Millers in Saturday's OSAA Class 5A girls' basketball championship game at Gill Coliseum.
Emily Niebergall added 16 points and five rebounds, and Alyson Miura had another 11 points and six assists despite serious foul trouble as the Falcons (25-4) claimed their fifth state title and third in five seasons.
"I just don't even have words," said Miura, a unanimous pick to the all-tournament first team. "It's just everything we wanted. You dream of this growing up and here we are and we did it. I'm just in shock still."
Saturday's win also was redemption for the Falcons after their 59-44 loss to Marist Catholic in last season's championship final.
"All day, we were like, 'We're not walking out of this gym like we did last year. We're not losing,'" Niebergall said. "That was our mentality, that we were winning this basketball game, and we did."
The Millers (22-5) made La Salle work for this one, refusing to relent even after Wedin's two free throws gave the Falcons a 52-41 lead and all but put the game out of reach with 1:19 to play.
"La Salle is a high-powered offensive program and we held them to 55 points," Springfield coach Teke Silva said. "We have nothing to hang our heads about on that one.
"Our ultimate goal was to be here and we got here. Obviously, the ultimate-ultimate goal was to win this and we came up short. But I can't take anything away from these kids."
Follow the leader
La Salle turned an 11-9 lead at the end of the first quarter into a 22-19 halftime lead, and then outscored Springfield 18-12 in the third quarter that extended the advantage to 40-31.
The Millers crept within four points when Rebecca Durbin converted a three-point play to make it 43-39 with 4:59 remaining, but Niebergall countered with a 3-pointer to spark a 9-2 run that helped put the game away.
One of the key factors in the game was La Salle's defense on Springfield's Emma McKenney, the 5-foot-8 senior transfer from Marist who torched the Falcons for 19 points in last year's championship final.
This time, the Falcons held McKenney to eight points on 3-for-6 shooting with one 3-pointer, effectively neutralizing the Millers' potential game-changer.
"It's no secret who Emma McKenney is," Silva said. "She earned second-team honors and she was face-guarded from three straight games. That's what La Salle did. They took away our third scorer."
Another key was La Salle's three primary 3-point shooters -- Miura, Niebergall, and Wedin -- who went a combined 8 for 14 from beyond the arc, while the Millers connected on 5 of 16 shots from long range.
The timing of the Falcons' 3-pointers also was crucial, too, and none bigger than Niebergall's deep trey from the left wing that made it 38-30 with 2:34 to play in the third quarter.
"We've been working all year for this, so let it fly," Niebergall said. "Why not shoot your shot? It's going to go in eventually, so just keep shooting and they're going to fall."
The lead was still 38-30 when Miura picked up her fourth foul with 1:58 to play in the third quarter and went to the bench while also signaling for
the Falcons' trainer to check her right knee.
It was 40-33 when Miura returned with 6:28 to play in the fourth quarter and then stepped into another 3-pointer -- her third of the game -- to push the lead to 43-33 with 6:04 left.
The Falcons then scored on four of their next six possessions, including Lauren Vreeken's reverse lay-up with an assist from Miura that made it 48-41 with 3:07 remaining.
The rest of La Salle's scoring came at the foul line as the Falcons made 7 of 8 free throws in the final 1:51 to seal the title.
"Our whole team came into this game knowing we were going to win," said Wedin, the Falcons' 5-1 sophomore and the coach's daughter. "We all were confident and played with great energy the whole game.
"It still hasn't hit me yet. Like, I don't know, it's just amazing. We all knew Springfield was a really good team and we were going to have to step up, and we all did."
La Salle graduated five seniors from last year's state runner-up team, but then got a lift from three transfers -- Lindsay Drango, a 6-1 junior from Lake Oswego High; Vreeken, a 6-foot senior from Prairie High in Vancouver, Wash., and Miura, the 5-9 senior from Clackamas High and a USC signee -- who helped to make the Falcons a bonafide state contender before they'd played their first game.
Twists and turns
The road to the state tournament had its share of adversity, starting with Miura going down with a shoulder injury that kept her out of action for 2 1/2 months and a total of 22 games missed.
The Falcons were the consensus No. 1 pick in the preseason coaches' poll, drawing nine of 11 first-place votes, but then they lost three straight games, including a 50-44 loss at home to Springfield, and their standing in the polls and the power rankings suffered.
Then came the unthinkable when Niebergall's mother, Katie, passed away unexpectedly on Jan. 31, shaking the team to its core with seven games remaining in the regular season.
Somehow, the Falcons persevered.
"We have fought through so much this year," Falcons coach Kelli Wedin said. "The adversity that we've faced has helped everybody grow and get tougher.
"These girls don't get rattled too easily. They just have been through a lot and all those experiences that we've gone through this year really helped us in this last little push."
Niebergall dedicated Saturday's game to her mother.
"I give it all up to my mom," Niebergall said. "I felt her in this gym. I knew she was here. I asked her for energy, I asked her for strength, and … it's been extremely hard. My team knows how hard it's been.
"I wish she was here. I wish I could see her. I miss her more than anything, but I know she watched our game and this is for her. I'm here to make her proud and that's what I did tonight."
After La Salle and Wilsonville finished the regular season as Northwest Oregon Conference co-champions, the Falcons opened the Class 5A playoffs with a 69-15 rout over North Bend.
Next, the Falcons rolled to a 57-46 victory over No. 4 Silverton in Thursday's quarterfinals, and then they thumped top-ranked Wilsonville 79-63 in Friday's semifinals.
Addi Wedin finished with a team-high 55 points, 18 rebounds, and four assists in three tournament games and joined Miura (44 points, nine rebounds, 13 assists) on the all-tournament first team along with Springfield's Durbin, and Wilsonville's Sydney Burns and Emilia Bishop.
Niebergall was named to the all-tournament second team after scoring 36 points with 13 rebounds and four assists.
"We were on the losing side last year and it's so heartbreaking, not so much for me, but for my kids," Kelli Wedin said. "They put so much into this and I just love them and want the best for them. It's just an experience that so many athletes only dream of having, and we're super-fortunate that we get to try and compete for this every year.
"We have standards for excellence in our program and the kids buy into that and it gets us here. This one was a hard-fought one. And I loved being the underdog. I loved how the girls embraced that and played with that chip on their shoulder that I wanted them to have all year. That was big."
LA SALLE PREP 11 11 18 15 -- 55
SPRINGFIELD 9 10 12 17 -- 48
La Salle Prep (55) -- Addi Wedin 18, Niebergall 16, Miura 11, Sisul 4, Vreeken 6, Skoro, Drango, Loboy, Felder.
Springfield (48) -- Rebecca Durbin 21, Elliott 13, Newell 4, Williams 2, McKenney 8, McKinney, Barraza, Chapman.