PENDLETON — In a rematch of a state tournament contest a year ago, the top-ranked Monroe girls basketball team got sweet revenge in a very big way.
The Dragons (29-0) capped a perfect season and took their first title with a 52-40 win over the Western Mennonite Pioneers in the Class 2A championship game Saturday at the Pendleton Convention Center.
Western Mennonite (23-8) was the last team to defeat the Dragons in a state tournament consolation game (47-40 last year in Pendleton). Monroe is the second team in the 11-year history of the OSAA six classifications to win the 2A title with a perfect record. Portland Christian won the 2010 title with a 29-0 mark.
Monroe got on an offensive roll and kept in going through the fourth. After a jumper by junior Peyton Greene, the Dragons led 39-29. After the Pioneers trimmed it to 39-31, Rose Gwillim fired in a turnaround jumper in the lane, making it 41-31.
The Pioneers never got within single digits for the remainder of the game as the Dragons offense was simply unstoppable. Monroe extended the margin to its largest lead of the game on two Stahl free throws, making it 48-33 midway through the fourth quarter.
"I'm so proud of these kids for always working hard and believing in themselves and their teammates," coach Tony Parker said. "This was a great game because everybody made key contributions to the win and that's what we been doing all season long. It's nice to have everyone contributing in a big way."
The Dragons established an early lead, but the Pioneers kept it close, and narrowed it to 12-6 early in the second. On Monroe's ensuing possession, Emily Stahl drew a foul on Pioneer standout senior guard Madison Hull, who finished the game with 22 points. Stahl, Monroe's only senior, hit a free throw, putting the Dragons up 13-6. After thwarting the Pioneers offense to get a defensive stop, Monroe junior Cameron Knaggs then fired in a three-pointer from the corner, giving Monroe a double digit lead at 16-6 with 6:16 left in the quarter.
"This is like a dream come true and it's a dream that I don't even want to wake up from," said Stahl, who is also on the Dragons cheerleading squad. "They (Pioneers) have other good players, but we were really focused on stopping Hull. We played against similar teams with strong, high scoring point guards, so we knew what to expect and we were well prepared with our game plan. This is by far the highlight of my career. When I was a freshman, I never thought that we would win state in basketball. Doing this in my last season is just the best thing that I've ever accomplished and it's a very thrilling experience."
Led by Hull, who averaged 30 points in the first two tournament games, the Pioneers fought back with an 11-3 run, trimming it to 19-17. With the clock winding down, Kyndal Martin drove in for a layup and was fouled by Hull with one second to go. Martin hit one of two from the line, giving Monroe a 20-17 halftime lead. More importantly, it put Hull in foul trouble with two fouls.
"It was Kyndal's job to stop Hull today and after her we lost her sister (Kailey Martin) to an injury, she's been the one person we've relied on to shut down the opponent's best offensive player," said Parker. "She did an awesome job defensively while working very hard the entire game. Emily played the best three games of the entire season at the tournament and I'm so proud of her because this is just a great way for her to conclude her senior year."
Monroe maintained its momentum in the third and had an 8-0, including a free throw line jumper by Stahl making it 22-17. Gwillim (12 points, 10 rebounds), the Moda Health player of the game, scored six straight and capped the run with two free throws to make it 28-17 with 5:31 left. The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the quarter, with Monroe up 37-29 after three.
Ballard earned a unanimous selection to the All State Tournament First Team. Martin and Gwillim earned All-State Tournament Second Team Awards.