The Monroe High girls basketball team will head to the Pendleton Convention Center this weekend looking to take care of some unfinished business.
Last season, the Dragons were the No. 2 seed in the 2A state tournament but finished a disappointing fifth after falling to Burns in the semifinals and losing the third-place game.
Monroe, which graduated just one senior last year, is the top seed this season and carries a 26-0 record into Thursday's 3:15 p.m. quarterfinal game against Regis.
“Last year we had a heartbreak in Pendleton because our ticket to the championship game was burned,” said junior Peyton Greene said. “We went into overtime with Burns. I fouled out and Rose (Gwillim) fouled out. I guess that heartbreak is what drives us every day to get us where we want to be.”
The Dragons' first test will be Regis (15-11) which was 7-5 in the powerful Tri-River Conference that has four teams in the quarterfinals, which includes the No. 2 seed Western Mennonite and No. 3 seed Kennedy.
Monroe faced several Tri-River Conference teams this year, but Regis was not one of them. Although they didn’t meet during the season, coach Tony Parker is familiar with the Rams’ game.
“We both played Kennedy, (but) I don’t take much from that," Parker said. "I’ve got film on them. They do a lot of the same stuff that we do, so it’s not a big mystery to us.”
Regis lost to Kennedy twice while Monroe beat the Trojans in the Kennedy Classic final early in the season.
Both teams approach the game with an emphasis on defense. The Dragons’ calling card is a full-court man-to-man that flies around and creates turnovers. Junior Madison Ballard described the press as really quick.
“We sell out and go for it as hard as we can,” Ballard said. “All five of us at the same time. We work together really well reading passes and knowing where the next big play is going to be.”
Greene echoed that everyone on the court goes hard at the same time while deploying the press.
“Four of our five starters wear knee pads, so we take (the press) seriously,” she said.
Heading into the state tournament last year Monroe had lost one game. This year they have won 26 in a row.
So does being undefeated add pressure?
“I’m a firm believer that you don’t worry about what your record is,” Parker said.
Greene said the focus has never been to go unbeaten.
“It’s been winning each individual game to be the best, in order to be in the state championship game,” she said.
With another regular season under their belts and some state experience, the Dragons will be one of the tournament favorites.
Ballard thinks that experience will make a big difference this year.
“The starters have all been to Pendleton. We know what it’s all about, so we’ll be confident to make plays,” she said.
Greene pointed to the teams drive, hustle and heart.
“We’ve wanted a state championship since fifth or sixth grade,” she said.
The Dragons will graduate just one senior again this year. If they are able to reach their goal and win a state title, next year they’ll be looking to not only get back ti the tournament but win another title.