It wasn't always pretty, but the undefeated Corbett girls basketball team was able to lean on its suffocating defense to grind out a tough win against Sandy as a final tune-up before league play on Thursday, Jan. 6.
The Cardinals had nearly led from the opening tip, minus an opening free throw make from Pioneer junior center Sydney Brewster, but as the clock ticked down the road team began to miss some open shots, leaving the door open.
Sandy surged thanks to some impressive defense of its own as an aggressive full-court press for most of the fourth quarter led to some costly turnovers from Corbett.
With just over a minute to play, the Pioneers scored five straight points, including a driving and-one layup from junior Grace Lucky.
But Corbett (11-0) showed its resilience with a pair of sophomores scoring late — Ella Holwege hit a trio of free throws, and Allyson Schimel had a block on defense and hit a three-pointer to seal a 45-34 victory.
"A game like this, a grind against a tough and aggressive team, is needed," said Corbett Coach Bill Schimel. "We had a good start, and then our offense went stagnant late, but we got the ball into the right player's hands late and secured the win."
Sophomore Schimel was the star, especially in the first half when she was one of the lone players on the court able to find her shooting stroke. She ended with a game-high 23 points. Holwege added 11 points.
For Sandy (2-6) it was Brewster who led the way with 12 points, many of them after she was able to get into good position in the paint and bully her way to rebounds. The rest of the Pioneers' offense came from a balanced attack, with senior Ashley Allinger netting nine points.
It was good to see the Pioneers back on the court after the last three games were all canceled — the Vince Dulcich Tournament in Astoria and a Mt. Hood Conference bout with Central Catholic.
Early in the contest, with the Cardinals flying across the court, it appeared as if things would end in a rout. They trapped the Pioneer guards in the halfcourt with double teams and weren't afraid to gamble on passes to kickstart the fastbreak. Whenever Corbett found itself out of position, senior forward Grace Merrill would slide over for smart help-defense and secure the defensive rebound.
"Our motto is to create chaos on defense and calm on offense," Coach Schimel said. "The more we can do on defense the better shots we are going to create."
When the current seniors — Merrill, Sydney Schimel, Isabelle Van Hee and Sydney Holwege — first joined the program four years ago, Corbett basketball was in a dire place. In 2018 they finished last in the Tri-Valley Conference after several years with a losing record.
But now things are beginning to change.
Corbett is ranked No. 5 for 4A girls basketball by the Oregon School Activities Association and the team is gunning for a Conference title. They haven't lost this season, and their lockdown defense has held opponents to just over 27 points per game.
While the Cardinals are taking things one game a time, there is excitement in the air.
"We want to go to state and make some noise," Coach Schimel said.
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