Tonight, March 9, the girls will step onto the court at Gill and try to keep the history writers busy as they play the Lady Cougars of Cascade High School at 8:15 p.m. in Corvallis.
The Lady Cougars are 23-2 and are ranked second in the OSAA rankings and in the coaches poll, while the Lady Bruins are ranked third in the coaches poll and seventh in the OSAA rankings.The coaches poll tends to be more accurate in the case of the Bruins as the OSAA ranking system does not track the win/loss percentages of the California schools that the Bruins play, and so skews the Bruins ranking position.
Head Coach Chris Schofield is fine with that oversight on the part of the OSAA ranking system.
“We hear that all year,” he said. “No one gets a chance to see us and we like it that way. Being seeded higher and playing at home and still being the underdog, that was great for us.”
“Our goal is to go up there and play our butts off,” he added. “We’ll just work as hard as we can and let the cards fall where they may.”
A number of online news agencies have pegged the Lady Bruins as the underdogs in Wednesday’s match-up as well, but that doesn’t faze any of the team.
“We work harder,” senior Ciara Freeman said. “We go to practice and take it out eight times harder than before. This is everything I’ve worked for all summer, and finally that hard work is paying off.”
“This is huge for us,” Schofield added. “And I’m proud of the kids, but we feel that we can play with anybody.”
One of the early goals the team set was simply to make it to the playoffs at Gill Coliseum and now that it is here, all of the talk is about working hard, going 1-0 each night and playing each game, one-at-a-time.
“We talked about it with our girls when we were eight or ten games into the season,” Schofield said. “We knew that we had something special here and we wouldn’t be the team sneaking in the back door to get to the tournament.”
The Lady Bruins will play against the Cascade High School Lady Cougars at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis tonight (March 9). The Pilot/Jef Hatch
“It’s amazing,” senior Miriam Hernandez said. “I don’t even know how to describe it, it’s four years of hard work and it’s finally here, so it’s undescribable.
“If it wasn’t for the hard work and faith,” she continued. “We wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Senior captain and Far West League MVP Ashley Juarez was so excited about the win that all she could do was jump around and shout.
“I’m so excited right now, you don’t even know how excited I am,” she said. “And happy!”
The Lady Bruins defeated the Junction City Tigers 48-27 in OSAA playoff action on Saturday night to make it to the championship bracket play at Gill.
While the Tigers averaged nearly 48 points per game during their season, the Bruin defense limited the Tigers to their lowest point total of the season, just 27 points.
The Tigers were unable to break double digits until the fourth quarter, when the Lady Bruins, up 37-15, looked deep into their bench for playing time.
Posting numbers like that regulary through the season, the Bruin defense has shown time and time again that they are a force to be reckoned with.
One of the reasons for the stellar defense is senior Jillian McCool. McCool doesn’t post big offensive numbers but knows that she has a role to play.
“I try really hard to bring energy,” McCool said. “I’m not out there to score 20 points a game, I’m there to play defense and bring energy to the floor because that is what I’m really good at.”
Offense is left to the more than capable hands of McCool’s teammates, including junior Brianna Juarez, who energized the team early in the game by hitting two three-pointers when the team needed it.
When asked if she ever concerned herself with how many points she scored, Juarez was very direct.
“Nobody really cares who the top scorer is,” she said. “This has been our team’s goal for so long, we win as a team, we lose as a team, and I’m just excited.”
Only two Bruins hit double-digit scoring in Saturday’s game, Freeman, 14, and Hernandez, 11, which goes to show just how much of a team effort a win is.
Seven Bruins put points in the score column, eight had rebounds, six had assists and six had steals. The Bruins scored 24 points on turnovers, compared to giving up just 11 to the Tigers.
“We felt like we hadn’t closed out very well in the last minute or two of the first half,” Schofield said. “We came back and played hard though, that was our thing all night. Play hard, take a rest, come back from that rest and play even harder.”
“We’re going to keep going,” he added. “And other teams that are only playing 5-7 girls are simply going to taper off.”
One of the keys to the game Schofield said, was that at the half the girls were complaining that they weren’t tired enough.
“They had just played the hardest 16 minutes we’d ever seen them play,” he chuckled.
When asked how this game had differed from a regular season game, Scofield was quick to praise Junction City.
“We had to work a lot harder because they were a good basketball team,” he said. “But we felt we could wear them down. We did, and that was the difference.”
One scare came late in the second quarter when junior Kambri Coleman took an uncalled charge and hit her head on the floor with a resounding smack.
Coleman got up immediately and the game continued until the final ten seconds of the half ran out and she was able to be supported to the bench by Schofield and assistant coach Daryn Farmer.
“Coleman is fine,” Schofield said. “She hit her head pretty hard but we got her checked out and she seems to be fine.”
Schofield gave his girls some last minute instructions before they left the locker room after their win.
“Enjoy this for the weekend,” he said. “It’s okay to pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself, you deserve it. But on Monday we’ll have an itinerary for you to ...”
“GO TO GILL!!!” the team shouted in unison as they finished his sentence.
The Bruins will play the Cascade Cougars at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, tonight, March 9, at 8:15 p.m.
See the included graphic for other play times based upon the outcome of the game.