Wilsonville girls basketball team claims third at state
While it wasn't the final game they envisioned, Wilsonville's girls basketball team still left the 2018-2019 season with a victory. In the third place game against tough Midwestern League team Crater.
It was the underclassmen that led the Wildcats to the win against Crater. Sophomore Sydney Burns, one of the breakout players from the season gone by, recorded 19 points 7 rebounds, 5 steals, 5 assists, and a block. Fellow sophomore Emilia Bishop had 14 points, 8 rebounds, and a block of her own. Bishop also shot 7-of-8 from the field.
"When I set my eyes on something I want to go get it, and if it means I'm going to get fouled or I'm going to get contact, I just want to get the ball in the hoop," Bishop said. "My first game of this playoff run, nothing was going in. I couldn't buy a bucket. So, I really felt stepping into last night and tonight that I had to be there for my team because not every 3-pointer is going to go in, and not every outside shot is going to go in. If I can clean up anything that might not have gone in, that's the best way I can contribute to my team."
The other big scorer for Wilsonville this season was junior Renee Lee, a new addition to the team this past season. The former Newberg Tiger had 16 points, including a trio of 3-pointers on five attempts.
"I had no idea that corner '3' would be an option for me," Lee said. "I've been working on my '3s' all season and improving, so I thought that since it was my last game of the season I should take all the chances I could get, and they were dropping. (Coach Justin Duke) drew up a couple of plays that got me to the corner so they could pass to me and I could shoot, and try to make it."
And while the seniors lines may not have jumped off the page in the game against Crater, there can be no denying the upperclassmen's heart in the contest. Look further than senior Teagan McNamee, a player with not one but two ankles taped up during the contest. But sitting this one out never crossed her mind.
"My ankles felt pretty terrible," McNamee said. "I hurt the left one in the La Salle game, and then the right one I was running after a ball in warmups and it just went out from under me. The left is worse than the right, but it didn't matter because I just pushed through it because my team means so much more to me, and no injury could keep me from playing with these people for one last time."
The start of the game was not ideal for the Wildcats. There was a distinct flatness to the usually vibrant squad, and after falling behind 10-4 early in the first quarter they found themselves in a hole they needed to dig out of. Add onto that the oppressive quiet after sophomore Keira McNamee collided with Burns and needed to be helped off of the court, and the energy was absent.
As if on cue, Lee got things going for Wilsonville with a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from the corner. Lee also forced a turnover on the ensuing Crater possession and the momentum started to swing towards the Wildcats.
"A kid like that comes in and kind of level sets the rest," Justin Duke said. "She's able to speak on experience about how special it is to be on a team with as many athletes as we have. She waited for her moment, and I thought it would maybe happen next year, I know she's going to have some great moments next year, but it was really cool to see her have that moment tonight."
Wilsonville went on a 6-1 run as the first quarter ended, and established a lead they were loath to relinquish. Crater would only take the lead once more, briefly in third quarter, before Wilsonville got it right back.
The key to Wilsonville's victory was its shooting percentage. The team shot 50 percent, 23-46 from the field, and 61.9 percent from the free throw line. Though they were outrebounded, the Wildcats were also able to create more offensive possessions in getting steals from the Comets, 11 total. Burns shot 8-of-11, Bishop 7-of-8, and Lee notched 6-of-8.
With the win, Wilsonville finishes third the state playoffs. Despite not making the finals, Wilsonville was able to collect wins over the two finalists. The Wildcats defeated the Springfield Millers in the season opener 63-51 on the road on Friday, Nov. 30; they also defeated La Salle in the first encounter, shocking the Falcons on Tuesday, Jan. 15 with a 71-59 victory. The win over Crater also saw a level of retribution exacted as well. The Comets upset Wilsonville in the opening round of the state playoffs last year, cutting the season short.
Wilsonville ends its season with a 23-6 record and as co-Northwest Oregon Conference champions.
Burns and Bishop also had their efforts acknowledged, earning First Team All-Tournament honors.
"This is the most blessed I've felt to be a part of a team," Bishop said. "The coaching staff is amazing, and I can't even explain the feeling to be in that locker room and get to go into everyday knowing I'm going to see my family, and I'm going to walk in and my sisters are going to be in the gym with me. It's the best feeling in the world."
Keep checking the Spokesman website for more stories about the Wildcats trip through the finals.