COOS BAY — Desi Hansen did everything she could to lift the Rainier Columbians.
Playing against the defending state champion Blanchet Catholic Cavaliers in the third-place game at the OSAA 3A girls’ state tournament Saturday, Hansen nearly single-handedly kept the Columbians in step. But the deep and experienced Cavaliers pulled away for a 44-28 win, handing Rainier a fifth-place finish at Marshfield High School. It’s the Columbians’ first trophy earned after making three trips in four years.
“We’re upset that we lost, but fifth place — not many teams can say they got a trophy,” Hansen said. “How many teams don’t ever make it to the top 16 or can have more wins than they do losses?”
The Cavaliers knew that Hansen would be the focus of Rainier’s offense but struggled to stop the Portland State-bound prospect early.
She lifted Rainier to a quick 6-0 lead with two baskets and an assist. Then, after a 13-0 Blanchet Catholic run, she found Hannah Farrell wide open at the block with a crisp pass from the top of the key in the halfcourt, then nabbed a steal and found Aspen Norman with a long bounce pass in transition to get Rainier within 13-10. Hansen had three first-quarter assists as Blanchet led 15-12.
Hansen found her shooting touch in the second quarter, hitting consecutive 3-pointers to turn a 19-16 deficit into a 22-21 lead with 2:25 left in the half. It was Rainier’s last lead.
“She’s a tremendous player,” Cavaliers coach Ron Hittner said. “She makes everyone around her better. If a kid’s open for a layup, she doesn’t miss ‘em.”
Hansen had four points and three assists in the first quarter, and had 12 points and four assists at halftime.
“We knew Hansen was gonna try to do what she can to get her team to win,” Blanchet Catholi guard Ana Coronado added. “She’s a very, very good player. She’s an awesome player. We knew she was gonna take the game herself.”
But Blanchet tightened its defense in the third quarter.
Where the Cavaliers were sagging off Columbians not named Hansen to focus on the 5-foot-10 senior in the first half, they were staying closer to their assignments in man-to-man defense, limiting her opportunities to find teammates who leaked toward the basket.
The minor defensive alteration gave Rainier some problems and resulted in a 17-1 run that gave Blanchet all the cushion it needed.
With fewer places to go with the ball, the Columbians started turning it over. Blanchet ended Rainier’s first five of six possessions with turnovers, two of which were Hansen offensive fouls. This sent Hansen to the bench with four fouls, not to return until the fourth quarter and Rainier had no answer.
“(Hansen) had a little trouble today finding people and taking good shots,” Rainier coach Doug Knox said.
The loss was an emotional one for Rainier.
It ends a four-year run that featured three trips to Coos Bay for the state tournament. As freshmen, Hansen and Norman helped the Columbians to a stunning upset of No. 1 Pleasant Hill in the first round of the playoffs as a 16 seed.
Their departure, along with fellow senior Emily Sanchez, gave Knox pause for a moment.
“That’s where I get tore up,” Knox said. “All three seniors, they’ve all played four years for me. Aspen (and) Desi orchestrated a comeback. That’s a huge memory. When they look back on this (year), that’s a good memory too. That’s a trophy that they got. It’s great for our program. We’ve been very fortunate enough over the years to have a couple good players like Desi. She’s exceptional.”
Hansen led Rainier with 14 points Saturday. Coronado had 13 for the Cavaliers.