At last, the Philomath High girls basketball team could smile.
Putting together a dominant performance over the final three quarters, the Warriors defeated Yamhill-Carlton, 62-29, Wednesday night to post a win in Oregon West Conference play and head into a play-in game with confidence and enthusiasm.
"We've waited all season for this," PHS senior Haidyn Ecker said. "We wanted to win and we got that tonight. We played hard and together tonight and it was awesome."
The Warriors end the regular season with a 10-13 overall record. Despite those struggles in conference play at 1-9, Philomath finished No. 20 in the OSAA rankings for Class 4A and now look toward a play-in showdown at 5:15 p.m. Friday at Brookings-Harbor.
Brookings-Harbor finished runner-up in the Far West League and has an overall record of 14-10. The teams had similar outcomes against common opponents with both losing to Hidden Valley and Marshfield, and both beating Douglas.
Wednesday against the Tigers, Philomath had a little bit of a suspect start with a 16-12 deficit through the first eight minutes. But then the defense took over and Yamhill-Carlton only scored 13 points the rest of the game.
"We've just been working on our 1-3-1 and I think also initially, we were taking good shots and they weren't falling and that was frustrating the girls," Warriors coach Shelly Brown said. "Once some of those shots started falling, I think it was just perpetual motion. The offense had the defense and the defense had the offense and they just never lost the intensity."
Not losing intensity has been an issue for the Warriors this season. Philomath has shown the ability to play with just about any team through the first half before things start to unravel in the third and fourth quarters.
"We talked a lot about that, maintaining our intensity and not being happy with where we were at," Brown said. "Each person from starters to the JV players who are swinging up, (we ask them) what is the one thing you can do to bring it up another notch for the team?"
Junior Lauren Berklund, who finished with 17 points, said the players were focused on keeping the energy going throughout the contest.
"Coach told us not to play looking at the scoreboard so I think we just went out and got the job done," Berklund said. "We cleaned up stuff and score on fast breaks."
Ecker, who scored 10 points, echoed her teammate and coach.
"To be honest, at halftime, I was like, 'what even is the score?' I was just more focused on our intensity," Ecker said. "You have to start over at halftime, 0-0, too, and so then you need to build off that. It was good to come out in the third quarter strong."
Philomath led 25-22 at halftime before putting its performance into a higher gear. Sophomore Emma Pankalla was especially effective with 19 of her game-high 22 points coming after halftime.
The Warriors opened the second half with a 7-1 run to get their lead up to double digits for the first time. Pankalla was everywhere with a steal and layup less than a minute into the third, followed by a fast-break hoop and a couple of free throws for a 31-22 lead. Pankalla then threw an accurate cross-court pass to find senior Reiley Reichhuber for another basket.
The Tigers cut their deficit to nine with 2:16 left in the third but Berklund responded a short time later with a 3-pointer and a 37-25 lead. Yamhill-Carlton never recovered and scored just four points the rest of the game.
Berklund said it was an emotional victory.
"It's been a rough season and to get a big win is nice for the last home game," she said. "We're all so close so it's fun to have that team chemistry."
Said Brown, "Just going into a play-in game with a win is huge for us."
Philomath 62, Yamhill-Carlton 29
Wednesday at Philomath
YAMHILL-CARLTON (12-11, 2-8) 16 6 3 4 — 29
PHILOMATH (10-13, 1-9) 12 13 14 23 — 62
Yamhill-Carlton: Aliya Seibel 4 0-1 9, Sadie Horne 2 4-8 8, Megan Gaibler 1 3-7 5, Reilly Southard 2 1-3 5, Jasmine Carlgren 1 0-0 2, Jordynn Rivas 0 0-1 0, Bella Van Horn 0 0-0 0, Rebecca Whitchurch 0 0-0 0, Jessica Ready 0 0-0 0, Jessica Mitchell 0 0-0 0, Josie Sibert 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 8-20 29.
Philomath: Emma Pankalla 7 8-13 22, Lauren Berklund 6 4-4 17, Haidyn Ecker 3 4-7 10, Reiley Reichhuber 3 0-1 8, Riley Weaver 1 0-2 3, Beth Manning 1 0-0 2, Braedyn McNeely 0 0-0 0, Bree Couture 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 16-27 62.
Philomath 39, Yamhill-Carlton 14
Wednesday at Philomath
YAMHILL-CARLTON 2 2 6 4 — 14
PHILOMATH 7 12 9 11 — 39
PHS scoring: Sydney Bradley 10, Rivers Nuno 8, Amie Russell 7, Emma Matthews 6, Sara Bradley 4, Kaili Saathoff 2, Kamden Combs 2, Alexis Van Vlack 0 0-0 0, Phaedra Hinds-Cook 0 0-0 0.
Team notes: Philomath's JV completed a perfect season with a 23-0 record. ... The JV Warriors had a bit of a slow start for their standards with a 19-4 lead at halftime. ... The Tigers scored no more than six points in any one quarter and hit just five baskets for the game. ... Sydney Bradley scored 10 points on three field goals and 4 of 6 free throws. ... Rivers Nuno scored eight, Amie Russell finished with seven and Emma Matthews had six. ... Only two players went to the foul line for PHS in the ballgame. ... The Warriors buried four 3-pointers in the contest, two each by Russell and Nuno.