In its 18 victories this season, Philomath High School’s girls basketball team won by an average margin of 24.4 points.
On the surface, it’s an impressive statistic that serves as evidence that the Warriors have one of the strongest teams in Class 4A this season. But strength of schedule factors into the equation and first-year coach Ben Silva would actually like to see his Warriors play some closer games.
“We haven’t had a lot of close games, which is a little bit concerning,” Silva said. “You’d like to have closer games just because there are skills and situations that you haven’t come across and you want to see how the team responds. You learn from those.”
In games decided by 10 points or less, Philomath has a 3-2 record, including a 46-36 setback at Stayton on Jan. 29. Those closer games can certainly be expected as the Warriors close in on a spot in the postseason. Silva believes Philomath’s players have a realization that there’s work to be done.
“We’ve talked about it as a team,” Silva said. “A lot of times when it’s the first time making it to the postseason, you face challenges that you haven’t seen. We have a pretty tough group of kids and we’ll be able to respond to those situations as they arise.”
The first test could come Friday with a home game against Newport. The Cubs are one of the few teams that have given the Warriors a test this season, losing to Philomath by just seven points.
“It’s not ideal to have this much time off,” Silva said in a reference to an eight-day stretch without games from this past Thursday leading up to the Newport game. “We need to stay focused; the Newport game is a big game. They’re tough, they can play with anybody in the state. They can play with anybody.”
Philomath and Stayton are tied for first place in the Oregon West Conference each with one loss after splitting their season series. The Eagles have already played Newport twice and swept those games and so Philomath will need to keep pace before ending the regular season with two overmatched opponents in Sisters and Woodburn.
If Philomath can win out, the Warriors have likely positioned itself for an automatic bye into the 4A playoffs. The Warriors are sitting at 18-3 overall and entered this week at No. 6 in the Oregon School Activities Association’s rankings.
The Warriors went to 8-1 in the conference Thursday with a 56-34 victory at Cascade in a game that had been postponed from earlier in the week because school was canceled last Tuesday.
After the 10-point loss to Stayton, the Warriors responded with back-to-back double-digit victories.
“Sometimes you learn more from losing than from winning,” Silva said. “We’ve had some really good practices and focused on some things that we needed to work on. It seems like we’ve made some pretty good improvements in those areas.”
Philomath’s transition offense has to rank among the best in all of 4A. But there are some other areas of the game that the Warriors have been working on to complete the package.
“We played good team basketball and shot the ball really well,” Silva said about the last two victories. “We executed in the half court very well as well as the transition.”
Against the Cougars, PHS freshman Sage Kramer had a game-high 16 points on eight field goals in three quarters of play. Junior Emma Pankalla scored 11 on four field goals, two of those 3-pointers in the first quarter, and a free throw. Sophomore Mia Rust had nine and senior Lauren Berklund added eight.
Kramer, Pankalla, Rust and Berklund have all shown the ability to put up points. The Warriors also have a supporting cast that can put the ball in the hoop on any given night. Against Cascade, sophomore Braedyn McNeely served as an example with her six points.
“When you have four that can score like that and with the others that chip in, you’re going to be hard to beat,” Silva said.
The Warriors were scheduled to play again Friday at home against Sisters but that game was postponed to this Saturday with the Outlaws not wanting to risk driving over the mountain with snow in the forecast.
Friday’s game against Newport is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. tip-off.
Philomath 56, Cascade 34
Thursday at Turner
PHILOMATH (18-3, 8-1) 20 14 17 5 — 56
CASCADE (8-10, 3-5) 10 8 9 7 — 34
Philomath: Sage Kramer 8 0-0 16, Emma Pankalla 4 1-2 11, Mia Rust 4 1-2 9, Lauren Berklund 3 2-4 8, Braedyn McNeely 3 0-0 6, Riley Weaver 2 0-0 4, Olivia Jahn-McLaren 1 0-0 2, Lara Hunter 0 0-0 0, Amie Russell 0 0-0 0, Sydney Bradley 0 0-0 0, Sara Bradley 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 4-8 56.
Cascade: Ariel Tobiasson 4 3-6 12, Camryn Boyles 2 1-3 6, Brookelyn Worst 1 2-7 4, Natalee Federico 2 0-0 4, Abbie Barber 0 2-2 2, Abbigail Cordero 1 0-3 2, Kenna Coleman 1 0-0 2, Bailey Pedersen 1 0-0 2, Emma Bjorkland 0 0-1 0, Abigail Jeppsen 0 0-0 0. Totals 12 8-24 34.
Philomath 42, Cascade 29
Thursday at Turner
PHILOMATH 11 11 10 10 — 42
CASCADE 6 2 13 8 — 29
PHS scoring: Kamden Combs 9, Rivers Nuno 8, Kaili Saathoff 8, Reagan Larson 7, Kiya Smith 6, Lara Hunter 2, K Bacho 2, Alexis Van Vlack 0, Braedyn McNeely 0.
Team notes: The JV girls improve to 17-1 on the season. … Philomath broke open the game in the second quarter with an 11-2 run. ... The Warriors had a consistent offensive flow with 11 points in each of the first and second quarters and 10 points in both the third and fourth. ... Kamden Combs had nine points on three field goals and 3 of 5 free throws. ... Rivers Nuno and Kaili Saathoff each scored eight, Reagan Larson had seven and Kiya Smith scored six on two 3-pointers. ... The team is scheduled to host Newport Friday.