Heading into the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs, most high school freshmen might be a little intimidated to perform with so much on the line.
Not Philomath's Sage Kramer. As Warriors fans must know by now, she's not your typical freshman basketball player.
Kramer scored 15 of the team's 17 points in the first quarter to help the Warriors build a lead that they would never relinquish in a 50-32 victory Saturday evening over Madras.
"We just wanted to play our game and get it inside because they're not as tall as us," said Kramer, who finished with 30 points on 13 field goals and 4 of 5 free throws. "Get it in there and get it to the posts."
Philomath (22-3), the No. 6 seed, moves on to the state tournament for the first time since 2014 when the Warriors brought home a sixth-place trophy. Coach Ben Silva's squad will face Banks in the quarterfinals, two teams that are familiar with one another after meeting early this season.
The third-seeded Braves (20-5) beat the Warriors 52-51 win on their home floor back in early December. Philomath and Banks will play at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Forest Grove High School.
"We worked hard, we knew it was going to be a long road and now that we're here, we're just going to give it our best shot and hopefully go all the way," sophomore Mia Rust said following the victory over the White Buffaloes.
Madras (15-9), which finished as the Tri-Valley Conference runner-up this season, could not keep pace with the taller Warriors. Kramer was especially effective with her inside play and ability to put the ball in the hoop on set-up passes from teammates.
"She has a very complete offensive package and was able to score multiple ways," said Silva, who is taking a team to the state tournament in his first season as a varsity head coach. "Some of the things that's impressive that people might not pay attention to as much with her is the offensive rebounds and stuff that she does like that."
Philomath simply had too much talent for visiting Madras, a school located north of Redmond and about a 3-1/2-hour bus ride away. The Warriors led 17-5 after the first eight minutes with Kramer's 15 and an inside basket by senior Lauren Berklund. Junior Emma Pankalla was especially potent directing the offense with well-timed assists to Kramer. She even threw the ball in-bounds on the bucket that Berklund scored.
"She scored more last year and I give a lot of credit to Emma," Silva said. "She's taken a different role and really embraced it and has done an amazing job. She makes our offense go; everything runs through her."
Kramer scored most of her points in transition with a few free throws mixed in. On the final shot of the first quarter, she got an offensive rebound on her own miss and put the ball back in just before the buzzer.
"I was hungry and was ready to play again," Kramer said in reference to a 10-day layoff heading into the game. "It had been a little bit and we were ready to go out and play. We really wanted it."
In the second quarter, the point production slowed down a little but the Warriors never allowed Madras to completely get back into the game. To the credit of the White Buffaloes, they made defensive adjustments that created a bit of chaos at times for the PHS offense.
"They don't have a lot of height but they sure play hard," Silva said. "They were flying around and getting their hands on the ball. They were all over the place."
Philomath shut down any thoughts of an upset by the visitors in the third quarter with an 11-4 run that put the margin at 19 points going into the fourth. Madras did cut its deficit down to 10 with 2:34 remaining.
Rust said it can be a challenge playing a team that the Warriors had beaten by 25 points earlier this season.
"It's really hard because we know each other, we know how each other plays, we know where we're strong and where we're not," Rust said. "So it's just weird playing each other again. You just come in with your head high and work hard and not give up."
Philomath had somewhat of a rough stretch in the third quarter with a few too many turnovers and Madras chipping away at the lead. With a 30-18 lead, Silva called timeout with 2:53 left in the quarter so the team could regroup.
"It was just to calm them down and focus on the defensive end," Silva said. "When you have a 12-point lead, you just have to get stops. At that point in time, they needed to do that and then not turn it over on the offensive end. We were just trying to calm them down a little bit."
Rust felt the team persevered the long layoff without competition pretty well.
"We just scrimmaged really hard in practice, worked 100 percent," she said. "It wasn't very much fun not having a game but we worked super hard and it paid off for us obviously."
The next stretch without a game won't be as bad.
"We missed two days because of snow, so it was just a weird week and a half," Silva said. "Luckily, we don't have as much time between now and our next game. We'll be able to have three good practices and move on."
Silva's team has won 17 of its last 18 games.
"The girls are very excited," Silva said. "They're having fun and like I've told them, that's when we're at our best — when we're enjoying it and having fun as a team."
Philomath's impressive turnaround from 2017-18 has been a notable storyline this season. The Warriors finished last in the Oregon West last year with players needing to endure the emotions connected with seeing a well-loved head coach resign.
With all of those types of experiences in their past, players like Rust have confidence that the Warriors can turn some heads at the tournament.
"We have a lot of strong-minded girls and we're really strong-willed," Rust said. "I think it's going to be really fun. I definitely think we're ready to take on any team in the state."
Philomath 50, Madras 32
Saturday at Philomath
MADRAS (15-9) 5 9 4 14 — 32
PHILOMATH (22-3) 17 9 11 13 — 50
Madras: Jiana Smith-Francis 2 6-11 10, Monika Stacona 2 0-0 6, Kalise Holliday 2 0-0 5, Jackie Zamora 2 0-0 4, Jayden Davis 2 0-1 4, Vanessa Culps 1 0-0 3, DaRia White 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 6-12 32.
Philomath: Sage Kramer 13 4-5 30, Mia Rust 2 3-4 7, Emma Pankalla 2 2-3 6, Lauren Berklund 2 0-0 4, Sydney Bradley 0 3-4 3, Riley Weaver 0 0-0 0, Braedyn McNeely 0 0-0 0, Lara Hunter 0 0-0 0, Rivers Nuno 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 12-16 50.