Slow start hurts Lady Buffs in playoff game
The Madras girls basketball program traveled to Philomath (22-3) for the first round of the 4A state playoffs and a mix between a slow start and some foul trouble saw the Lady Buffs fall to the Warriors 50-32.
The match was a faceoff between the 11th-ranked Madras squad and sixth-ranked Philomath.
In the first quarter, Jiana Smith-Francis hit two free throws and Kalise Holliday hit a 3-pointer, but the Lady Buffs were still down 8-5. One of the Buffalos' leading scorers, Jayden Davis, picked up two early fouls and was put on minute restrictions by Coach Jerin Say.
The Lady Buffs went cold the rest of the quarter and were down 17-5 heading into the second period. The Buffs were playing catch-up the rest of the way.
The Warriors scored the first four points of the second quarter, all on free throws, but Davis was able to score for the Buffs. Late in the quarter, Smith-Francis hit another pair of free throws and Holliday scored, cutting the Philomath lead down to 11.
With one minute left in the half, Philomath scored on back-to-back baskets, before Monika Stacona hit a three at the end of the second quarter. Madras went into halftime down by that same 12 points, 26-14.
The Warriors started the second half well, scoring early, but a 3-pointer by Vanessa Culps and free throw by Smith-Francis forced Philomath to call a timeout, with a 30-18 lead.
"From the get-go, the first minute or two, Jayden (Davis) had two fouls," Say said. "Nothing she really did in my opinion, just a lot of ticky-tack fouls called early. We didn't see the ball go into the hoop and we were struggling with balancing the lineup and finding ways to score. We were able to attack them fine, we just couldn't find the hole and that happens sometimes."
After the timeout, the Warriors went on a 7-0 run to close out the quarter and take a commanding 37-18 lead heading into the final quarter of play.
Stacona hit a 3-pointer and Jackie Zamora-Heath found the back of the net to start the fourth quarter and the Lady Buffs were able to cut the lead to 14.
A few plays later, baskets by Smith-Francis and Davis forced Philomath to call a timeout, but they still held a 41-29 lead.
Smith-Francis scored quickly after the timeout and cut the lead to 10 with two minutes left in the game. The Lady Buffs were in desperation mode and the Warriors went on a 9-1 run to end the game.
Smith-Francis was the leading scorer for the Lady Buffs with 10 points, while Stacona added 6 points and Holliday 5 points.
"Philomath was pretty aggressive and we handled it fine, but they were just getting all their points right at the basket, which was tough to stop with their size and height," he said. "We finally went on a run in the fourth and our shots were falling. We were able to force some turnovers, but couldn't finish."
"The girls never gave up and fought hard all the way through," said Say. "It sucks we lost, but the girls kept believing we were going to make a run, but we fell short and ran out of time."
The Lady Buffs ended the season with a 15-9 overall record, 7-3 in the Tri-Valley conference and were ranked No. 11 heading into the state playoffs.
"We had a lot of internal stuff in our program this year," said Say. "There was a lot of ups, downs, and stuff in between. The girls kept their focus, kept working hard and were working well as a team through all the conflicts and adjustments. By the end of the year, we finally hit a stride, we were all starting to be on the same page."
"It just took time to get to where we wanted to as a program," he said. "It think moving forward, expectations are set, disciplinary actions are set, everyone is now on the same page and getting along. The team now knows when to work and when to relax and have a good time. I feel really good about the future of the program. It just took a year to get things established."
Sophomore Jayden Davis and junior Jiana Smith-Francis will both return next year for the Lady Buffs. Smith-Francis and Davis both started for Madras.