NORTH BEND, Ore. — Once Clatskanie’s freshman-dominated girls’ basketball team got over its state-tournament jitters, the Tigers put together a great rally against defending champion Blanchet Catholic in the Class 3A girls basketball state quarterfinals at North Bend High School on Thursday.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Blanchet Catholic had a rally of its own and nipped Clatskanie 48-45 on a 3-pointer in the closing seconds by Bailey Hittner.
The loss sent the Tigers into the consolation bracket and a Friday morning game against Nyssa, which lost to top-ranked Salem Academy 51-19 earlier Thursday.
Clatskanie coach Dawn Warren said she expects her team to bounce back well.
“I think we’re past the tough part,” she said. “They’ve played their first game at state. They’re ready to play ball now.”
Clatskanie’s leading scorers are freshmen Shelby Blodgett and Olivia Sprague and another freshman, Alexis Smith, is the first off the bench. But none of the Tigers had experienced the tournament before Thursday.
“This is our first appearance at state,” Blodgett said. “We’re a young team.”
The first half, the Tigers played like it as Blanchet Catholic built a 28-16 halftime lead, scoring the final 11 points of the second quarter.
Blanchet Catholic’s biggest lead was 32-19 early in the third quarter, but that’s when Clatskanie came to life.
Sprague hit a pair of free throws and Blodgett had a free throw and 3-pointer to spark a 15-0 run that stretched into the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer by Sprague with 7:20 to go tied the score and a basket by Blodgett off a steal moments later put Clatskanie in front.
After Hittner finally broke the streak for the Cavaliers, Clatskanie scored seven more in a row, all by the three freshmen, to go up 41-34.
“The first half could have gone a little better,” Blodgett said. “I know the second half is always our half.”
But Blanchet Catholic, which had two big comebacks on its run to the title last year, came back, tying the game on a basket by Ana Coronado with 1:50 to go.
“We’ve been behind by more before,” Coronado said. “We all knew we had plenty of time. Six minutes was plenty of time for us to come back. Coach was just telling us to keep cool, because we had plenty of time.”
After a Clatskanie miss, the Cavaliers ran the clock down for a final shot, taking three timeouts along the way, and Hittner banked in the winner with 3.5 seconds to go.
“That was a dumb shot,” Hittner said. “(Our coach) wanted us to attack the basket, because it was a tie game so worse comes to worse, we go to OT. But I was open and my confidence was really high and, I’m not really sure why, I just shot it and thankfully it went in.”
Coronado stole the inbounds pass, sealing Clatskanie’s fate.
But the Tigers were able to walk off the court with their heads held high after the big comeback.
“We could have come out and hung our heads,” Warren said. “The first half, it’s the ‘We’re at state’ jitters. The second half was indicative of how they play.”
The coach wasn’t surprised by the comeback.
“It’s their mentality. They don’t know how to lose,” she said. “You can’t coach that.
Blodgett finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and six steals and Sprague had 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Hittner and Hailey Ostby had 13 points and Trinity Phipps added 10 for Blanchet Catholic. Coronado added eight points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
Blodgett said the Tigers would focus on rebounding and running their offense Friday, as well as effort needed in an 8 a.m. game.
“It takes heart,” she said.