PHILOMATH — Slowly but surely the Philomath High girls basketball team has been healing from an onslaught of injuries to start the season.

With that has come some success. The Warriors (3-2) began the season with two losses but won their third in a row with a 59-25 dismantling of Elmira on Tuesday night.

At one point, four of the Warriors' five starters were out this season.

Emma Pankalla and Lauren Berklund were playing for the first time on Tuesday since getting injured. Pankalla, who was a first-team all-Oregon West Conference selection last year as a freshman, has practiced twice this season and went down with an ankle injury against Elmira.

Hailey Matthews was sick early on and then suffered a concussion during the first game and will probably be out through Christmas. Olivia Jahn-McClaren was rolled up on and missed several days.

"Some injuries is a massive understatement," coach Dave Garvin said. "We just start getting them back and Emma makes a huge difference and then she rolls that ankle. So hopefully it's not too bad. We were looking at four kids who were starters and had all-league recognition in their careers and we were down to eight."

Garvin said he figured freshmen Braedyn McNeely and Mia Rust would swing between junior varsity and some varsity time, but they wound up getting significant varsity minutes and McNeely stepped in as the starting point guard.

"The silver lining is they had to do it and they've got good experience and they're stepping up in the games and advancing quickly, where if they hadn't got all the varsity time it may not be as good," Garvin said. "So for the future it's good, but for the preseason right now it's frustrating."

McNeely and Rust both had solid games against Elmira. Rust, a post, finished with 10 points, eight coming in the second half.

McNeely had eight for the Warriors, who were led by Pankalla with 11.

Jahn-McClaren is now healthy and added eight points.

"I think it was difficult at first having a lot of players gone, but I think that we did really good at coming together as a team and pulling through," Jahn-McClaren said. "We were there for the girls that had to come up and step up their game and they really brought 100 percent.

"It makes you feel better knowing that you have the girls that were starting back, and it was hard not having them there because with breaks and stuff they maybe had to go longer than they wanted to, so it was nice to have some people to be able to go in and bring it back for us."

The Warriors clamped down on defense after building a 17-13 lead to end the first quarter and allowed 12 points the rest of the way.

Senior post Haidyn Ecker also finished with eight points and added a stabilizing influence on the Warriors.

She said the Warriors improved on turnovers and were not passing up good shots.

"Coach has been talking to us about passing up open shots, and the second half we really took those shots and that was good," Ecker said. "We're trying to mesh more overall."

Ecker said the wins will help build confidence and it's nice to get players healthy, but the team needs to be ready for any setback.

"We have to come out every game even if five of us get out injured after this. We have to come out with the same intensity and confidence every game," Ecker said. "We can't rely on everyone to be there sometimes."


Sports Reporter

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