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Cougars rise to No. 2 in OSAA rankings, prepare for league showdown at Kennedy

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Gervais junior Katie Hanson advances the ball up court against pressure from North Marions Mya Hammack. The Cougars would go on to lose 31-28 to the Huskies for the teams first loss of the season.PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - The team's second-leading scorer this season, freshman Izzy Boyd was held to just two points against North Marion.The Gervais girls basketball team's nine-game winning streak to start the season came to a crashing halt against the North Marion Huskies in the semifinals of the Crusader Classic New Year's Invitational Black Bracket on Friday.

The top-scoring 2A team in the state heading into the tournament, the Cougars were held to just 10 points in the second half of a 31-28 loss to the Huskies, including a three-point fourth quarter that allowed North Marion to rally to take the lead in the final minutes and snap Gervais' streak.

While the loss was disappointing the moment for the Gervais girls, it may have been just what the team needed in its push for a trip to the state quarterfinal tournament in Pendleton in March.

"I think we needed this," head coach Kyle Buse said. "I was just saying the other day that we needed a loss or we needed a tough game. We needed a tough game so we could get it out of the way now."

While the Cougars would undoubtedly prefer to take a tough win over a tough loss, the Gervais coaching staff needed to see how the team would perform in a pressure situation.

In the previous nine wins entering the contest against North Marion, the Cougars' closest game was a 56-38 win over Amity in the tournament opener the day earlier. Nearly every game Gervais played had been decided by more than 30 points — many of which were decided by halftime.

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Without injured starter Isabelle Vasquez, head coach Kyle Buse relied more on reserves like sophomore Selma Villegas, who came off the bench to score six points against North Marion.The team had not been in any high-pressure situations in December, and Buse knew that it would be better to get practice in those situations now, rather than when they count more in the Tri-River schedule, the league playoffs or the state tournament.

"I think our errors and mistakes were definitely shown more today and how those mistakes can impact a game if we're close," Buse said. "I think that we haven't had that, so it kind of put us in a little bit of a disadvantage in that we weren't prepped for a close game."

Senior wing Isabelle Vasquez went down with a left ankle injury in the first quarter. Still, the Cougars weathered the loss and leaned more on younger backups Salma Villegas, Izzy Boyd and Mayra Perez.

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Gervais junior Araceli Vasquez has her shot blocked by North Marion senior Katie Ensign in the fourth quarter. The Cougars were held to just three points in the final period, falling 31-28 to the Huskies.Gervais led 18-14 going into half and were up 25-22 after three quarters, but were held to just three points in the final period as the Huskies inched ahead at the free-throw line in the final moments of the game to seal the win.

Araceli Vasquez led the team with seven points, while Villegas added six and Lilly Welburn scored five.

The following day, Gervais survived another pressure-cooker game, taking down 3A No. 3 Burns 43-34 to finish third in their bracket.

Welburn led the team with 14 in the win, along with nine from Araceli Vasquez, who scored all her points from 3-point range.

Gervais opened the tournament with a 56-38 win over Amity.

The victories bumped Gervais (10-1, 2-0 Tri-River) up to No. 2 in the OSAA rankings as the team prepared to travel to Mount Angel on Tuesday to take on the No. 6 Kennedy Trojans (9-3, 3-0).


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