LEBANON — It’s been a trend so far this season for Philomath High’s girls basketball team — a strong third quarter.
Trailing by 10 points Tuesday afternoon at halftime on the road against Class 5A Lebanon, the Warriors needed to find answers to get back into the game. Second-year coach Ben Silva apparently instilled the right message in his players.
“It was definitely really intense ... he’s always on us,” said junior Mia Rust, who ended up hitting the winning shot in Philomath’s 61-58 victory. “Through the whole season, we’ve had an amazing third quarter. I guess it takes us getting chewed out to come out and play hard.”
Silva said he told players at halftime that they could play a lot better and needed to hold themselves to a higher standard, especially on the defensive end. Entering the contest, Philomath had held opponents to an average of 32.9 points per game with Astoria scoring the most at 50.
Lebanon had 39 points in the first half alone.
“I challenged them to come out and perform,” Silva said “You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Lebanon; they’re obviously very talented and that’s part of the reason we gave up so many points. But we had a different level of energy in the second half.”
Lebanon (5-3) scored just 19 points in the second half.
Sophomore Sage Kramer, who scored a game-high 24 points, said those halftime comments obviously worked.
“We were able to have more energy and we had to fix stuff on defense,” Kramer said. “Their No. 33 (senior Ellie Croco), she was just getting us with everything down low and making us collapse in so the 3-pointers were open, and they were hitting their threes. We just had to have more energy on D to come out and stop both of those.”
Although Croco’s scoring pace slowed in the second half, she still finished with a respectable 18 points. Success from beyond the three-point arc also saw less success with five of the seven in the game for Lebanon coming in the first and second quarters.
Philomath (9-0) has rallied from being down by double digits on the road in two of its last three games.
“It shows that we can, but we definitely need to not be down by as much as we go into state,” Kramer said while considering the long-term picture. “We don’t want to have that pattern (in tough playoff games) and not be able to come back.”
The word “determined” appears on the back of the players’ warmup shirts.
“They are a very determined group of girls — they’re ready to go every night,” Silva said. “There’s not a time where they don’t think they’re in the basketball game. They’re determined and resilient and able to battle back.”
Philomath could fly under the radar to a certain degree last season but those days are over. The Warriors have emerged as a legitimate contender for the state title and holds No. 1 positions in both the OSAAtoday coaches poll and in the OSAA rankings.
It all adds up to a big bull’s-eye on the players’ backs. Opponents want to be the first team to put a blemish on Philomath’s perfect record.
“We have more confidence than we have in past years and I think that goes with the coaching staff and we just had a lot of young girls,” Rust said. “We finally matured and now we’re on top.”
Staying on top will require continued hard work.
“We obviously have a little bit more pressure to do good but we’re still playing our game,” Kramer said.
The two teams traded punches in the first half with a 17-17 tie. The lead exchanged hands six times during those 8 minutes alone. But Lebanon found a rhythm in the second quarter and went on an 9-0 run. Junior Hollie Johnson hit one of her four 3-pointers during that stretch and both Croco and senior Mary Workman had key points.
With 2:15 left in the half, Lebanon had its biggest lead of the half at 36-24. The visiting Warriors responded with Rust completing a traditional three-point play and Kramer added another two to cut the deficit to seven. But with 22 seconds left, freshman Haley Hargis buried a 3 to get Lebanon’s lead back up to 10 heading into the intermission.
In the third quarter, Lebanon came out with two quick buckets for its biggest lead of the game at 43-29. Philomath appeared that it could be in trouble but senior Emma Pankalla put those fears at ease by sinking a 3-pointer 46 seconds into the half.
And just like that, the momentum changed. The 3-pointer represented the beginning of an 11-0 run that saw Philomath get to within 43-40. Rust drove for two, Kramer scored after junior Braedyn McNeely forced a turnover, McNeeley then scored herself on a jumper and senior Rivers Nuno found the hoop on a setup from Rust.
Lebanon broke the run and still led by three points as the buzzer signaling the end of the third quarter sounded. Philomath had climbed out of a hole and it was anybody’s ballgame with 8 minutes to go.
Pankalla opened the fourth with back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game and then give Philomath a 52-49 lead. Lebanon responded and the two teams battled into the final minute. The home team took a 58-57 lead with 50 seconds remaining on a Johnson 3-pointer.
But that would be it for Lebanon’s scoring. Croco had an opportunity at the foul line with 22 seconds left as Lebanon had an opportunity to extend its one-point lead. Croco missed on the front end of a 1-and-1, and Philomath found success on the other end to take the lead. On the play, Rust scored on a feed from McNeely.
“We said if she missed the free throw, we want to get something in transition — we run really well,” Silva said about Rust’s go-ahead hoop. “We felt like they were fatigued and we could take advantage of our ability to get out and still run. The transition’s something we’re working on.”
On Lebanon’s ensuing possession, Kramer grabbed a rebound while getting fouled. At the free-throw line, Kramer sank both attempts for at 61-58 with only 1 second left.
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After both Lebanon and Philomath called timeouts, the home team unsuccessfully attempted a throw-in toward the half-court area and the visiting Warriors could celebrate.
“We’re really resilient and our word this year is ‘determined,’” Rust said. “We never go out without a fight.”
Philomath will get another big test on the road Friday with a trip to Hidden Valley. The Mustangs will enter the game with a 10-1 record — the only coming in a tournament to a California school.
Philomath 61, Lebanon 58
Tuesday at Lebanon
PHILOMATH (9-0) 17 12 17 15 — 61
LEBANON (5-3) 17 22 10 9 — 58
Philomath: Sage Kramer 10 3-5 24, Mia Rust 7 1-1 15, Emma Pankalla 3 2-2 11, Rivers Nuno 2 1-1 5, Braedyn McNeely 1 0-0 2, Lara Hunter 1 0-0 2, Kamden Combs 1 0-0 2, Phaedra Hinds-Cook 0 0-0 0, Kaili Saathoff 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 7-9 61.
Lebanon: Ellie Croco 6 6-8 18, Mary Workman 5 1-1 12, Hollie Johnson 4 0-0 12, Haley Hargis 1 2-2 5, Taylor Edwards 2 1-2 5, Kylie Steiner 1 0-0 3, Hallie Jo Miller 1 1-1 3, Kianna Guzon 0 0-0 0, Hannah Hatchard 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 11-14 58.
Philomath 47, Lebanon 31
Tuesday at Lebanon
PHILOMATH 13 13 10 11 — 47
LEBANON 4 8 8 11 — 31
PHS scoring: Hailie Couture 11, Cassidy Lewis 10, Ingrid Hellesto 8, Abigail Brown 8, K Bacho 4, Mia Bennett 4, Elizabeth Morales 2.
Team notes: The JV girls remain unbeaten at 6-0. ... Philomath took control early with a 13-4 lead by the end of the first quarter and 26-12 at halftime. ... Hailie Couture buried three 3-pointers in the first half to highlight the offense’s performance. She added two free throws in the fourth and was the team’s top scorer at 11 points. ... Cassidy Lewis scored six of her 10 points in the second quarter. ... The team plays Friday at Hidden Valley.
Junior Varsity II
Philomath 36, Lebanon 19
Tuesday at Lebanon
PHILOMATH 3 11 14 8 — 36
LEBANON 4 13 0 2 — 19
PHS scoring: McKenzie Hauck 12, Alivia Pittman 10, Hannah Beck 4, Makayla Gilmore-Garcia 4, Mia Cook 3, Alyson Todd 3, Brooke Moade 0, Macy Freeman 0.
Team notes: The JVII team went to 4-0 on the season. ... McKenzie Hauck (12 points) and Alivia Pittman (10 points) scored 11 of the team’s 17 field goals. ... Philomath trailed 17-14 at halftime before dominating the third and fourth quarters. ... The JVII Warriors held Lebanon to no field goals and just two free throws in the entire second half. ... The team heads to Hidden Valley Friday.