Following a lengthy bus ride and come-from-behind victory at Pendleton, the Crescent Valley High girls basketball team is ready to take on any challenger.
After all, the ninth-seeded Raiders (22-4) have won eight straight games and will be playing in their own backyard when the OSAA 5A state tournament kicks off Tuesday afternoon at Gill Coliseum. CV, which is making its first quarterfinal appearance since 2011, opens the tournament against No. 1 Marist (22-3) at 1:30 p.m.
“The atmosphere will be pretty intense, I’m sure,” Raiders senior guard Vanessa Taylor said. “I think it’ll be a lot of fun and I am real excited to share it with all my teammates that I’ve gotten so close to.”
Tuesday’s winner advances to the semifinals for a matchup with No. 5 Silverton, the Mid-Willamette Conference champion, or fourth-seeded Springfield on Thursday. The losers will face off in the consolation bracket on Wednesday.
The red-hot Raiders overcame a four-point third-quarter deficit at Pendleton in Friday’s state round of 16. After giving up nine offensive rebounds in the third, CV surrendered none in the final period.
In-game adjustments have been a theme during the Raiders’ winning streak, coach Eric Gower said.
“I think each game we have done a good job of not letting ourselves get too high or too low and just kind of playing through it all,” Gower said. “Earlier in the year, we would kind of get too upset with stuff and when things started to fall apart, it would really fall apart. Now we are able to have a bad couple minutes here and there, and then we’ll find our groove.”
Marist, champion on the Midwestern League, is sure to test the Raiders on both ends of the court.
The Spartans are led by MWL player of the year Emma McKenney, a junior guard. Literal twin towers Claire Eagen and Lauren Eagen both stand 6-foot-1 and were first-team all-league selections.
“They are a lot taller than us, but I think we can match up with it,” said CV junior guard Cali McClave, who scored a game-high 26 points at Pendleton. “We definitely have the capability to play with anyone in the state tournament. If we just focus on the little things, I think we’ll do fine.”
Gower also believes the Raiders have what it takes to compete with Marist.
CV gave Silverton a strong test in early February and later picked up a 39-38 road win against Central in Independence. The third-seeded Panthers are in the quarterfinals and will face No. 6 Bend on Tuesday.
“Marist is a really solid team, and I think any team we play at this point is going to be pretty good,” Gower said. “I think for us it will probably be about stopping them inside. If we can force them to beat us from the outside, we will have a chance.”
The Raiders’ run to the state tournament came as a bit of a surprise to the outside world.
CV has just two seniors — Nicole Moore and Taylor — along with a first-year coach in Gower. But a 9-1 nonconference record quickly put the Raiders on the map.
“At the beginning of the year, we knew we were OK and had talent to work with,” Taylor said. “We weren’t sure how far we’d get, but we were determined to get as far as we could. One of our goals was to make it to Gill, and we got there.”
McClave can’t wait to get on the court and see if the Raiders can keep going.
“We watched the boys (at the state tournament) last year and the whole time I was jealous because I wanted to be playing there, too,” McClave said. “I am definitely excited to play.”