Seaside's Maddi Utti proved to be too much for Molalla

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - Molalla junior Sierra Cox pulls up for a shot during the Indians' 38-31 loss in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs at home last Saturday.

When Seaside senior Maddi Utti went down early in the first quarter, things could've gotten ugly for the Seagulls without their star player.

But Utti didn't stay down for long as she returned in the second quarter with a vengeance, eventually putting up 20 of Seaside's 38 points on the night, with a taped up chin the whole night.

Molalla couldn't seem to get much going offensively all night, as junior Alicia Schultz's normal double-digit performance was basically eliminated by the Seagulls' hard press.

As Utti went down early, Molalla took a 7-3 lead going into the second quarter while Seaside wasn't able to do much without her.

But she came back to put up seven points in the second quarter to keep Molalla's lead to within four heading into halftime.

Molalla struggled in the second half as they were only able to find six points in the third quarter and five in the fourth, while Seaside put up nine and 13, respectively.

After Molalla led 18-10 with about a minute left in the first half, they found themselves down 25-20 with two minutes left in the third. The Indians didn't score until 1:16 left in the third when senior Audrey Rieskamp found a layup on an assist from Schultz to close the gap to three, followed up shortly by two free throws from junior Sierra Cox to make it a one-point game.

Molalla took the lead 26-25 heading into the fourth quarter as Schultz drove from half court to send in a layup with 15 second left, and then ran down full-court to block a shot from Utti to keep the lead.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - Molalla junior Alicia Schultz boxes out a Seaside defender during the Indians' 38-31 loss in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs at home last Saturday.

Early in the fourth, Seaside hit two big three-pointers from junior Bryre Babbitt and sophomore Emy Kiser; Kiser's shot bounced off the rim, up and off the backboard before falling in to give the Seagulls a 31-26 lead with 5:30 left.

Molalla had yet to score in the quarter with 3:20 left, when Utti hit a short jumper to make it a seven-point game.

Then Molalla hit the bonus with three minutes left as Schultz was sent to the line, making one to make it 33-27. At that point, Molalla had been outscored 23-9 since going up 18-10 late in the second quarter.

Molalla was forced to start fouling while Seaside played keepaway with 1:36 left. The Indians got lucky too as the Seagulls went only five for 13 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, giving Molalla a chance to make something happen.

Molalla freshman Maddy Lisac hit a baseline layup with 32 seconds remaining to bring it within four points, but Utti then hit a pair of clutch free throws to seal the deal.

Seaside advances to the quarterfinals against the top-ranked, undefeated Cascade Cougars on March 9 at Forest Grove High School.

After the game, head coach Phil Wiesner said they simply got away from their game plan.

"In a nutshell what happened was, two straight possessions we went away from the game plan, and it cost us," Wiesner said. "Utti is an extremely good player, and you can feed into that or not feed into it, and a couple possessions we just went away from the game plan."

"It was just couple of mental lapses, and so they get a couple, and then that starts messing with your mind," he said.

Despite the loss, Wiesner said he is incredibly proud of his team, who played a historic season for Molalla girls' basketball, winning the league championship for the first time in 15 years.

"These girls, they had a heck of a season and everything to be proud of, and I'm very proud of them," Wiesner said. "They did great, and some of the young ones rose up and did some things we can build on; the seniors, they've done so much and paid their dues, and they go out with a league trophy that hasn't happened in 15 years."

Molalla graduates five seniors in Aliya Imholt, Rylee Elliott, Mackenzie Sheckard, Audrey Rieskamp, and Jenna Potter. They'll return key starters in Schultz, Cox, and Myers as well as Lisac who saw significant minutes this season as a freshman.

Conner Williams
Sports Reporter/News Contributor
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