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Madras took the lead in the third quarter but fell to Cottage Grove 60-43 in bid for state.

JAYSON SMITH - Senior Dominique Walker drives hard to during the Lady Buffs' 60-43 loss to Cottage Grove in the 4A state playoffs March. 6. Walker led Madras in scoring with 12 points.The Madras girls basketball team traveled to Cottage Grove for a state playoff game March 6 and lost to the Lions 60-43.

The Lady Buffs were the No. 9-ranked 4A girls team heading into the postseason, while Cottage Grove was ranked No. 8.

Madras and Cottage Grove had very different styles of basketball, as the Lions had a very tall, lengthy team. They were in a zone defense and slowed the ball down to try and post up.

Madras — a short but athletic and talented squad — tried to speed the game up and create chaos on defense with a press, while attempting to score in transition.

"We tried to use our transition offense and defense to speed the game up, and they picked their moments to run down the court, catch us sleeping, kind of streaking out, but they really just wanted to run their 2-3 zone and beat us up down low," head coach Jerin Say said. "It was a tale of two different styles of basketball. Both teams controlled tempo at different parts of the game. It was a fun one."

Cottage Grove scored the first points of the game, but a 3-pointer by Jayden Davis gave the Buffs a 3-2 lead. The Lions went on a quick 7-0 run, but a basket by DaRia White stopped it.

A few plays later, ChaCha Ramirez helped the Lady Buffs cut the Cottage Grove lead to 16-10 with a basket of her own. After the Ramirez basket, Cottage Grove went on a 6-0 run to close out the quarter, taking a big 22-10 lead heading into the second quarter.

The Lions were able to extend their lead to 15 points early in the second quarter, but baskets by Davis and Walker narrowed the lead to 10. Madras went into halftime down 27-17.

After Cottage Grove scored 22 points in the first quarter, the Lady Buffs held Cottage Grove to only five points in the second quarter.

At the start of the second half, Walker made three 3-pointers in a row, bringing Madras to within one point. A quick basket by White gave Madras its first lead of the game, and momentum was shifting toward the Lady Buffs.

"We came out on like a 14-2 run or something like that with Dominique (Walker) hitting those three 3-pointers," Say said. "Our press was really working, and we were getting a lot of steals. Turnovers really hurt us and stopped our momentum."

A few plays later, baskets by Jiana Smith-Francis and Sha'Rita Johns gave Madras a 32-30 lead near the end of the third quarter. Cottage Grove went on another 7-0 run to take the lead back, but Johns made a 3-pointer, keeping the score close.

Cottage Grove had a small 39-35 lead over Madras heading into the final quarter of play.

JAYSON SMITH - Seniors Jiana Smith-Francis, left, and Sha'Rita Johns, right, block a Cottage Grove player. Smith-Francis scored four points for Madras, while Johns added 11 points. Madras lost 60-43 March 6 in the 4A state playoffs.The Lions again went on a 7-0 run to start the final quarter of play. Smith-Francis was able to make two free throws for the Lady Buffs, but Madras was down 46-37 early in the fourth.

With Madras in foul trouble, Cottage Grove spent the majority of the fourth quarter at the free-throw line. Smith-Francis and Walker both fouled out in the final quarter.

Cottage Grove shot 18 free throws and made 13 of them in the last quarter to close out Madras for a 60-43 victory.

"We got in foul trouble, and the lead just blew up with fouls and free-throw shooting," Say said.

Walker led the way for Madras, scoring 12 points, while Johns added 11 for the Buffs. Davis ended the game with seven points, White five, and Smith-Francis four points. Six-foot-1-inch Matty Ladd led the way for Cottage Grove with 19 points.

Cottage Grove moved on in the 4A state playoffs and will play the No. 1-ranked Philomath girls at 12:30 p.m. March 12 at Forest Grove High School.

The Lady Buffs had their season come to an end, and they finished the year with a 15-9 overall record. They were No. 2 in the Tri-Valley Conference with a 7-3 record.

In the nine losses this season, six were to the top eight 4A teams, one to 6A Bend and another to a team from Washington. They only lost to one 4A team not ranked in the top eight.

"I thought we had a pretty tough schedule. We played a lot of quality teams," said Say. "We played some bigger schools and had some really cool endings to some games, buzzer-beating victories. I was really proud of the girls. A lot of games we were undersized, but they fought hard and played hard every game. It is really cool to see a team like this be able to compete and take it to teams that are a lot bigger than them. They had a lot of heart, a lot of fight, skills, and played really well this year."

Madras will be losing several seniors next year, but will have Davis, White, Ramirez and Kathryce Danzuka, as well as several other younger athletes returning next season.

"We are losing some key players that are seniors," Say said. "Just like last year, we had to replace five or so seniors, and this year we are going to have to replace five or so seniors again.

We are really going to need to use the offseason to mesh together with summer league and workouts. There are a bunch of younger girls that are going to be able to play at the varsity level this summer, and we will see who does what. That is where the chemistry begins.

"We will go into the season next year, a little bit like this year, rebuilding a little bit, but at the same time rely on the seniors to help the younger kids out," he said. "We need to bring it all together so we can make another run at the playoffs next year."

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