As of Wednesday, March 7, 2018
INDEPENDENCE — After a slow start to the game, the Panthers (11-3, Mid-Willamette Conference, 21-4) gathered their energy and attacked the fourth quarter with fervor, nabbing a win against the Hillsboro High School Spartans (9-5, Northwest Oregon Conference, 13-13), 34-31.
The Panthers seemed sluggish in the first half; they had trouble shooting the ball and keeping up with the Spartans quick plays. At the end of the first quarter they were down by two, 11-9, with that gap stretching to five at halftime, 20-15.
The two teams battled it out for the ball, finding gaps in defense and pouncing on them, racing up and down the court for a chance to shoot.
“The (Spartans) had a good game plan,” coach Jule McDonald said. “They came out and they went big; and they got in the zone, and they’ve seen us play a little bit of the zone offense lately and it hasn’t been the best, so they went big on that, but we did a good job rebounding.”
The pressure of the Panther’s playoff game could be felt around the gym, and appeared to be a result of the Panthers’ slow start.
McDonald said she wasn’t sure why the girls were struggling to keep up with the Spartans.
“They were loose, ready to go, enthusiastic with it, confident; we got out there and, I don’t know if it’s the zone that came out and surprised them a little bit, but yeah, it took three and a half quarters to do it,” she said.
During the third quarter, McDonald called a timeout. That was where something clicked for the Panthers.
“We basically just said that we had eight minutes left on the clock, and then that was it and we didn’t want to be done yet. We all stepped up,” senior Lexy Barba said.
After that timeout, the girls found the energy they needed, coming onto the court in full force.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Elizabeth Chavez managed two shots back to back, bringing the score up to a tie, 27 all. The crowd went wild, their screams deafening. From there, it was a race to the finish, the crowd watching with bated breath.
The clock ticking, with 30 seconds to go, the Panthers were up by one. Foul trouble found the Panthers on the line, stretching the spread a little more.
“There in the fourth quarter we turned on our full court,” McDonald said, “man-to-man got after it a little bit, got that momentum going, and turned around there; (we) got that lead on a couple free throws and after that, our girls are smart, as far as strategy-wise goes at the end of the game, and know how to pull it out,”
While it was a celebration on their end, McDonald and her team agrees that they don’t like games like these.
“I’ve seen better games, for sure,” Barba said, “but I think all my teammates stepped up tonight and we got a win; I’m so excited.”
Tuesday after press time, the girls travel to Gill Coliseum at Oregon State University for the state quarterfinals against Bend.