While players like Sage Kramer, Mia Rust, Emma Pankalla and Lauren Berklund attract a lot of attention for Philomath High's emergence this season in girls basketball, the Warriors also feature a deep roster with a capable cast of contributors.
Sophomore Braedyn McNeely and senior Sydney Bradley are among the first players off the bench for Philomath and each brings particular value to the attack.
"I definitely like coming off the bench better just because it gives me an idea of how the other team plays," said Bradley, who is in her first season with the varsity. "I'm prepared to go in and I kinda know what the starters are running so that helps me out a lot."
McNeely's among those players who are having a whole lot of fun with Philomath's success in the sport, especially with the struggles the program endured last season. If the Warriors win their regular-season finale Tuesday at Woodburn, they will have accomplished the rare feat of going from worst to first.
"We are way more successful this year and we're actually going to compete in the playoffs," McNeely said. "We didn't even make it to a play-in game last year."
Added Bradley, "It's a good feeling. We're definitely excited and it gets really crazy in there (the locker room) when we think about it."
Philomath reached 20 victories with Monday night's 59-13 win over Sisters in a game that had been rescheduled twice. The Warriors led 13-0 before the Outlaws could find the net and held a 39-8 advantage at halftime.
Philomath's defense allowed only five points in the second half, including a mere one point in the third quarter alone.
"You have to be respectful of the other team but at the same time, you have to come out and find some value in it," PHS coach Ben Silva said about what the team can get out of games against overmatched opponents. "We jumped on them pretty early and they struggled with our defense."
Sisters made just four field goals in the game, two of those 3-pointers, and made 3 of 8 free throws.
"On our defensive end, that's probably what we got the most out of tonight," Silva said. "That's pretty strong on the defensive end if you're only giving up 13 points."
On the other end, Kramer had a typical performance with 18 points on eight field goals with two 3-pointers. All of those points came in the first half. Rust scored 12 on five baskets and 2 for 2 on free throws.
"I think some of the stuff I've been talking about, we were able to see and I think it made a little bit more sense as to what I've been asking the team to do," Silva said. "We've done a better job executing."
Philomath (20-3 overall, 10-1 Oregon West) plays Tuesday at Woodburn and will then wait to see what opponent the Warriors face in the first round of the state playoffs.
"Once you get to the playoffs, everybody's good and they all play good defense," Silva said. "We won't be able to get as many looks in transition as we're used to so we have to be able to execute in the half-court."
The team looks to be back to full strength for the playoffs. Phaedra Hinds-Cook has missed some time but Silva said he expects the sophomore guard to be back in uniform.
Philomath 59, Sisters 13
Monday at Philomath
SISTERS (7-17, 5-7) 6 2 1 4 — 13
PHILOMATH (20-3, 10-1) 21 18 9 11 — 59
Sisters: Isabelle Spitler 1 2-2 5, Payden Petterson 1 0-0 3, Meaghan Greaney 1 0-2 2, Sydney Head 1 0-0 2, Hallie Schwartz 0 1-2 1, RylieReece Morgan 0 0-0 0, Kaylee Huber 0 0-0 0, Sophia Bianchi 0 0-0 0, Rheanna Salisbury 0 0-2 0, Josie Aylor 0 0-0 0. Totals 4 3-8 13.
Philomath: Sage Kramer 8 0-0 18, Mia Rust 5 2-2 12, Emma Pankalla 3 0-0 7, Amie Russell 3 0-1 6, Sara Bradley 3 0-0 6, Lauren Berklund 2 0-0 5, Olivia Jahn-McLaren 1 0-0 3, Sydney Bradley 1 0-0 2, Riley Weaver 0 0-0 0, Braedyn McNeely 0 0-0 0, Lara Hunter 0 0-0 0, Rivers Nuno 0 0-0 0, Alexix Van Vlack 0 0-0 0, Kiya Smith 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 2-3 59.
Philomath 54, Sisters 18
Monday at Philomath
SISTERS 6 4 1 7 — 18
PHILOMATH 10 10 23 11 — 54
PHS scoring: Kiya Smith 26, Kaili Saathoff 8, Reagan Larson 8, Alexis Van Vlack 6, K Bacho 4, Kamden Combs 2, Rivers Nuno 0.
Team notes: The JV team goes to 19-1 on the season. ... Philomath pulled away for good with a 23-1 run in the third quarter after leading 20-10 at halftime. ... Kiya Smith threw down 26 points on seven field goals, five of those 3-pointers, and 3 of 4 on free throws. ... Smith scored 17 points in the third quarter alone. ... Reagan Larson was also hitting from 3-point range with a pair of treys. ... Philomath made 7 of 8 free throws. ... Sisters made just six baskets in the game. ... The team ends the season Tuesday at Woodburn.