FOREST GROVE — Sage Kramer scored 18 points and the Philomath High girls basketball team avenged an earlier loss to Banks on Thursday with a 45-43 victory for a berth in to the OSAA 4A semifinals.
The sixth-seeded Warriors will play No. 2 seed Baker at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Forest Grove High.
The Warriors fell to Banks 52-51 in their second game of the season back on Dec. 5, but were determined to not let this one slip away.
It was a special win for the Warriors, sophomore Mia Rust said.
"We lost to them by one last time, so it was really nice to come back and beat them,” she said. “No one on our team has been here before and now to be here in the final four is an amazing feeling.”
The two teams exchanged free-throw makes over the final minutes of action, but it was the Warriors who held a 43-40 lead with 55.5 seconds to go.
Philomath came up with a stop on defense, but missed two free throws that could have made it a two-possession contest. The end result was one last chance for Banks to tie the game with 16.5 seconds left.
The Warriors' defense came up big once again, forcing a missed 3-point try from Aspen Slifka before icing the game with two free throws that put the Warriors up 45-40. Slifka hit a 3 at the buzzer, but the Warriors celebrated the win.
Warriors’ head coach Ben Silva, who’s flipped the Philomath program from the bottom of the Oregon West Conference to the semifinals of the playoffs in just his first year, liked the determination his team showed.
“I’m extremely proud,” Silva said. “They’ve worked hard, and they deserve this. We’ve grown very close this year and I’m especially happy for our seniors to get this experience from where they’ve come.”
Kramer, a freshman who finished with five rebounds and two assists to go with her 18 points, showed poise beyond her age as she helped lead the Warriors to the upset of the third-seeded Braves.
“Sage is phenomenal at scoring the ball,” Silva said. “She does a great job and is a very refined player for a freshman. It’s what she does for us on a nightly basis, so we expect it from her. It’s wild considering she’s 14 years old, but she has a lot of poise.”
Added Kramer: “It was amazing. I knew from when we lost that game that we were going to play them again and it would be our time.”
The Warriors' defense was the difference in the game as they held the Braves to 29 percent shooting from the field.
“We did a great job with our team defense tonight,” Silva said. “We were flying around and executing our game plan, which was trying to frustrate them and make things difficult.”
The Banks-heavy crowd made the neutral court more of a home-court advantage for the Braves. But it didn’t faze the Warriors, who stayed focused and locked in from start to finish.
Rust, who finished with eight points and eight rebounds, noted that while the Braves’ crowd certainly brought the energy, it was the Warriors who fed off it throughout the game.
“It was almost like a home game for Banks,” Rust said. “They were really loud, had a lot of fans, and brought really good energy. It was definitely hard, but we knew we had to tune them out and do what we do.”
Behind nine points from Kramer, the Warriors started strong and built a 17-13 lead at the end of one quarter.
Things tightened up in the second quarter as the two teams combined for 12 points and went to the halftime break tied at 21-21.
Back-to-back threes from Kramer and Emma Pankalla gave PHS a 29-23 lead with 4:29 left in the third, but Banks answered with four straight points to narrow the deficit to 29-27 with 3:30 remaining in the third.
Philomath held a 33-30 lead going to the fourth thanks to an uptick in defensive pressure and intensity that forced the Braves into tough shots.
Silva expects a tough test from Baker in the semis.
“Baker is a really tough team,” he said. “They play a lot of full court man-to-man, are very physical and athletic, and like to get out and run. They have a couple very tough players who are going to be hard to stop, so we’re going to watch the film and come up with a solid game plan.”