Kennedy girls finish third at state tournament
With dreams of finishing the 2018-19 season with yet another 2A state championship, it may be tough for the Kennedy girls basketball team to walk away falling short of their goal.
Not so for the Trojans' coaches.
After Kennedy's third place finish at this year's state quarterfinal tournament in Pendleton, Trojans' co-head coach Peter Hall was as proud of his team as he had been after the program's 2016 and 2018 titles.
"It was a good tournament; I'm not disappointed in the least bit in our results," Hall said. "Everyone wants to win the title, but these kids did not give up."
The Trojans certainly had every reason to do so.
Heading into Saturday's third-place game against the Enterprise Outlaws, Kennedy was beaten, bruised and broken. The Trojans had just seen their state championship aspirations go up in smoke in a 41-35 overtime loss to the Coquille Red Devils.
The team was without starters Hailey Arritola, who had suffered a broken toe in the semifinals, and Ellie Cantu, who had sprained her back in the same loss.
But Hall gathered the team and reminded them that the crowd that was gathered for the championship match between Coquille and Heppner was already here. This was a moment to remind everyone that despite the loss the night before, Kennedy basketball remains the best in the state. And to his seniors — Kalyssa Kleinschmit and Clarissa Traeger — this was their time to shine.
"That last day, I pulled the seniors aside and said this was it," Hall said. "Pass the torch right now. This is your moment."
The Trojans responded with their best game of the tournament. Led by a game-high 18-point performance from Kleinschmit in her final high school game, Kennedy put up a 49-31 victory over the Outlaws and finished their season on a high note.
It was a stark juxtaposition to the team's first of five straight quarterfinal appearances in 2015. That year, the Trojans entered the state tournament as the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, but were likewise upset in a 49-44 overtime loss to Burns in the semifinals.
That team was unable to recover, falling by 23 points on the next day to finish with a fifth-place trophy.
This time around, Kennedy showed up ready to play. Without two of the team's top defensive players, the Trojans turned to reserves Elise Suing and Reese Hall to fill the gaps, and the pair responded admirably. Suing stayed on the floor longer than anyone except Kleinschmit, while Hall finished with seven points and three assists.
But the game ultimately belonged to Kleinschmit, who added three assists, four steals and six rebounds, as well as hitting 9-of-11 shots from the foul line in her final high school game.
The team saw positive contributions across the board, as seven players logged as least 12 minutes, including reserves Grace Schaecher and Catherine Butsch, who stepped into larger roles off the bench typically reserved for Suing and Hall.
"That Enterprise team is extremely well coached and they are silly athletic," Peter Hall said. "Our girls executed very good. Our defense was tight."
The night before could have gone either way against a Coquille team that Kennedy had beaten in the regular season in December. Arritola led the Trojans with 11 points and six rebounds as the team played from a deficit for nearly the entire game.
Down 27-22 entering the fourth quarter, Kennedy rallied to tie the game in the final seconds of regulation, only for the Red Devils to go on a 6-0 run to close out the final minute of overtime.
In the quarterfinal game on Thursday, it was more of the same — physical defense and intense effort from both sides as the Trojans gutted out a 39-31 win over the Central Linn Cobras.
Junior post Sophia Carley had her best game of the tournament in the win over the Cobras, putting up 10 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in the win. It was the most evenly distributed offensive performance of the weekend for the Trojans, with Cantu, Traeger, Arritola and Kleinschmit each scoring at least six points.
After the tournament, Hall praised the level of competition from top to bottom among the eight teams left playing. It was as good a field as he had seen in his five years of playing in Pendleton.