MONROE — The final buzzer proved anticlimactic for a team that did its work early and made sure not to overlook the opponent.
Veteran-heavy Monroe showed no signs of nerves in its biggest game of the season to this point.
The Dragons didn’t miss many shots in the first half Friday night and rolled to an 80-43 win against City Christian in an OSAA 2A girls basketball round-of-16 game.
Monroe (24-3) heads back to the state tournament for the fourth straight seasons to defend its 2017 championship, opening that defense at Pendleton Convention Center in a Thursday night quarterfinal against Saturday’s Lost River-Gold Beach winner.
“There’s pressure, but we’ve always had pressure,” said senior wing Peyton Greene, who had a team-high 18 points. “We know we have a big target on our back. So we’ve always had the pressure of losing.”
The Dragons have solidified themselves among the top 2A teams the past four years. Monroe is 104-11 in that stretch.
Friday, Monroe jumped out to a 12-2 lead and went ahead 25-11 after one quarter on back-to-back baskets by Mirtha Lopez.
The Dragons put the defensive pressure on and City Christian (17-8) couldn’t handle it. The Lions had 10 turnovers in the first quarter and 18 by halftime, many of those coming on bad passes that ended up in Monroe hands.
Dragons senior point guard Madison Ballard had four 3-pointers in the first half, the last of which was hoisted from about 30 feet. It came during a 13-0 second-quarter run that put Monroe ahead 42-14 and the game out of reach. The home team led 52-22 at halftime.
“There was definitely a little bit of nerves coming into this game because it’s do or die, but we’ve been here before,” Ballard said.
The Dragons were led in scoring by their seniors, of which there are seven in all. Ballard had 14, Kailey Martin 13 and Cameron Knaggs 12. Knaggs had three 3-pointers.
Holly Ishibashi had 16 points to lead City Christian, of Portland.
Monroe was without standout junior guard Kyndal Martin, who suffered a concussion early in the team’s Mountain View Conference playoff loss to Oakland six days earlier.
Dragons coach Tony Parker said he was glad to see his team be able to get back on track without Kyndal Martin on the floor. Parker hopes to have her back on Monday.
Junior wing Peyton Bodi had a bump on her head after a fall during a loose ball scramble midway through the third quarter Friday and didn’t return.
Parker didn’t seem surprised by his team’s effort.
“This group of seniors has been there and done that,” he said. “They knew what it was. They knew what was riding on it, so they came out and put their foot down.”
Monroe is a different team than last season, when it went to Pendleton undefeated. It also is without starting post players Rose Gwillim (who moved) and Emily Stahl (who graduated), and adopted a quicker pace of play with a smaller lineup.
The Dragons might not be the favorite this time around because, as Greene pointed out, they have lost to teams that will be at the tournament. Kennedy, which beat Monroe twice, and Oakland also qualified with Friday wins.
But Ballard believes her team is still the one to beat.
“We’ve been there before, we’ve done it before. We have the experience, and that experience, I feel, is an intangible that some teams don’t have,” she said. “We only have to win these four at the end of the season, and being undefeated the rest of the season really doesn’t matter.”