It was a big game for Philomath High girls basketball Friday night for a lot of reasons.
The Warriors were trying to keep pace with Stayton, as both teams have just one loss as the Oregon West Conference regular season winds down. Philomath was also celebrating its six seniors and the emotions that come with such a ceremony, not knowing if they’ll be playing on the home court again.
But the Warriors persevered.
They overcame a slow start and outscored Newport, 40-24, in the middle quarters and pulled away for a 72-52 win.
Mia Rust had 28 points, Sage Kramer 17 and Emma Pankalla 12 for Philomath (19-3, 9-1), now a half-game back of Stayton. The teams split two games this season with each winning at home by 10.
Madison Hargett had 16 for Newport (14-8, 7-4), which shot well in the first half, getting a total of six 3-pointers from five different players.
“They were a good team. They played really good defense and we just had to get open looks,” Pankalla said.
Philomath did that in the second quarter as the home team chipped away at what was an early nine-point deficit.
Kramer scored four straight — two on a transition basket and two more at the free-throw line — as the Warriors closed within one. The freshman standout and the team’s leading scorer later put back a teammate’s miss to get Philomath even at 23-all.
Newport went ahead 30-25 before the Warriors closed the half on an 11-2 run, with a Rivers Nuno 3-pointer at the buzzer making it 36-32 at the break. Rust had four points in that stretch.
The Cubs went cold in the third after getting the first six points of the period on 3-pointers. The visitors would get just one field goal in a stretch of more than 11 minutes as the Warriors clicked into gear offensively.
Rust, a sophomore post, scored six straight, the last on a layin off a Riley Weaver assist, to answer the 3-pointers and give Philomath the lead for good.
Pankalla nailed a 3-pointer, Rust scored off a Kramer pass and Nuno scored on a late putback as the Warriors closed the period on a 17-3 spurt.
“We just realized we could do it,” Rust said. “We are a strong team, we have a lot of talent and realized this team couldn’t beat us.”
Warriors coach Ben Silva said his team weathered Newport’s early strong shooting and then attacked the basket because the Warriors believed they had an advantage there.
Kramer, as she often is game in and game out, was the focus of Newport’s defense. She found ways to contribute outside of the set offense in the first half with 10 of her 17 points.
A junior guard, Pankalla made three outside shots in the first two quarters, first helping her team get back in the game and then matching Newport late in the half.
Weaver, a senior guard, sets the tone defensively on top and makes plays that don’t show up in the scorebook, Silva said.
When the Warriors are playing well, the coach said, they move the ball, get out in transition and provide a balanced offensive attack.
“We have a lot of girls who are capable of scoring in different facets, both inside and out,” Silva said.
Added Pankalla: “I think there have been nights where one of us isn’t shooting well but there are four other people who can pick up the slack. It’s really nice.”
Silva, a first-year girls coach who previously worked with the Philomath boys program, took over a varsity team that went 10-14 overall and 1-9 in a tough Oregon West last year. The Warriors lost five games by double digits.
Another year of experience for eight returners and the addition of Kramer and others has helped Philomath to a successful season. The Warriors have won 18 of their 19 games by double digits.
Silva said his transition has gone well.
“It’s been great so far. I’m having a good time,” Silva said. “The girls are fun to work with. They come to practice and work hard every day and that’s really all you can ask.”
Philomath hosts Sisters in a makeup game Monday and then closes the regular season at Woodburn Tuesday.
The Warriors clinched a spot in the 4A round of 16 with Friday's win. They need to remain high enough in the OSAA power rankings in order to host in that round, with the winners there going to the state tournament in Forest Grove.
“Our team has one goal and we want to win and we want to get to state,” Rust said. “We definitely thought this was going to be more of a growing year with the new coach and everything. We’ve had some bumps along the way, but I think we’ve come a long, long ways.”
Philomath 72, Newport 52
Friday at Philomath
NEWPORT (14-8, 7-4) 17 15 9 11 — 52
PHILOMATH (19-3, 9-1) 13 23 17 19 — 72
Newport: Madison Hargett 5 2-2 16, Megan Wagner 2 6-6 12, Grace Hargett 2 3-4 8, Halle Hargett 2 0-2 4, Kaitlyn Mitchell 2 0-0 4, Hannah Trommlitz 1 0-0 3, Michaela Wagner 1 0-0 3, Sonya Cutler 1 0-0 2, Izabella McLane 0 0-0 0, Dakota Rundell 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 11-14 52.
Philomath: Mia Rust 11 6-8 28, Sage Kramer 6 4-4 17, Emma Pankalla 5 0-1 12, Rivers Nuno 2 0-0 5, Sydney Bradley 1 2-2 4, Lauren Berklund 2 0-0 4, Sara Bradley 1 0-0 2, Riley Weaver 0 0-0 0, Braedyn McNeely 0 0-0 0, Lara Hunter 0 0-0 0, Reagan Larson 0 0-0 0, Amie Russell 0 0-0 0, Olivia Jahn-McLaren 0 0-0 0, Kamden Combs 0 0-0 0. Totals 28 12-15 72.
Philomath 56, Newport 19
Friday at Philomath
NEWPORT 7 4 6 2 — 19
PHILOMATH 13 19 13 11 — 56
PHS scoring: Kaili Saathoff 18, Reagan Larson 12, Alexis Van Vlack 6, Rivers Nuno 6, Kamden Combs 5, Kiya Smith 5, K Bacho 4, Lara Hunter 0.
Team notes: The JV girls improve to 18-1 on the season. … Philomath controlled the game from the opening tip-off and led 32-11 at halftime. … Kaili Saathoff, a sophomore post and leading scorer on the JV team this season, had 18 points on eight field goals and 2 of 3 free throws. … Freshman Reagan Larson scored 12 points on five field goals, two of those coming from 3-point range. … Philomath is scheduled to play at home Monday against Sisters. The Warriors end the season Tuesday at Woodburn.