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The small private Hillsboro school is 17-1 and No. 1-ranked in OSAA's 2A rankings.

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Faith Bible's Alexis Mallory drives the lane during the Falcons' game against Country Christian Monday night, Jan. 17, at the Country Christian School.Sometimes it's hard to see a good thing coming.

With the loss of four key seniors from a team that finished 10-3 and went undefeated in league play last spring, the Faith Bible girls basketball team didn't know what to expect this season. But what they've found in a sea of uncertainty is a tight-knit group of underclassmen led by a couple seniors who've discovered the power of chemistry.

"What makes this group really special is the way they play together," Faith Bible head coach Brent Masterson said. "We have a great combination of leaders who set the tone for the team, which makes it really easy for the rest of the girls to want to get behind. It's really a special group of young ladies."

That "special group" is 17-1 this season and presently the No. 1-ranked team in the 2A classification, and those leaders are seniors Taylor Masterson and Ashley Lohman.

Taylor Masterson — Brent's daughter — said that while not shocked, she's been pleasantly surprised by the team's success due to the players they lost to graduation last spring.

"The crazy thing about this year is that last year we thought we were going to do really good because we had four seniors, three of which were starters, but then we lost in the first round of the playoffs, and coming into this year, we weren't as confident," Taylor said. "Then we started this year really good and our juniors have stepped up, and things are going great."

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Faith Bible's Taylor Masterson takes a running shot in the lane during the Falcons' game against Country Christian Monday night, Jan. 17, at the Country Christian School.Coach Masterson acknowledged those juniors — Ruth Mohr, Becca Warren, and twins Alexis and Adrienne Mallory — have been vital to the team's success. In particular, he pointed to the late addition of the Mallorys as the ingredient that set his team up to go from good to great.

The coach said there was a point earlier in the school year that it was uncertain whether Alexis and Adrienne Mallory would be able to finish the year at Faith Bible. But when he got word that they would be available for the remainder of the year, he said that he and the team's expectations grew exponentially.

"At the 2A level, if you have one special player, you can do pretty good, and if you have two, you have a pretty good chance to win most games that you play," he said. "But once we secured the twins were going to stay, that really gave me the thought that maybe we could do something special this year."

And the Falcons did something special Jan. 17, when they defeated the then top-ranked team in the 1A classification, Country Christian. But it wasn't that they won that's worthy of conversation, but rather how they did it.

Trailing by 18 to start the fourth quarter, the Falcons outscored the Cougars 25-4 in the final stanza and won the game 69-66 when Lohman hit a last-second 3-pointer. Faith made 13 shots from behind the arc in all, six of which came in the deciding fourth quarter.

Taylor Masterson, who scored 28 points in the game, tallied 16 of those in the fourth quarter and was instrumental in motivating the team despite their large deficit.

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Faith Bible's Alexis Mallory takes a shot in the lane during the Falcons' game against Country Christian Monday night, Jan. 17, at the Country Christian School."She decided that she just didn't want to lose, and she really kind of caught fire at the right time," Coach Masterson said. "I gave them the 'go get 'em' speech at halftime, but then I left them in the locker room for about two minutes to talk to themselves, and Taylor has been that vocal leader, while Ashley sets the tone, and they make it easy for the girls to follow."

In addition to the upperclassmen, the coach mentioned freshmen Katelyn Kriegelstein and Bella Marin as fresh-faced and valuable contributors who bring an added intensity to practice and games.

"It's really great when you can have backup players that push starters in practice," Brent Masterson said. "It only makes the team better."

So, with but one loss and the No. 1 ranking to their name, has Masterson had to adjust the team's goals going forward? He says no. In fact, he said he's learned that lesson over the last couple of years. His daughter, however, isn't having it and wants to at the very least get beyond the point at which they've stumbled in years past.

"As a team, I think we all just really want to make it past the first round of playoffs," Taylor Masterson said. "I know for the juniors and seniors it just crushed us losing in the first round the last two years, so we're hoping to go farther than that."

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