Mathew Brock

Pilot Staff Writer

The lady Panthers took the Sunset Conference by storm this year by going nearly undefeated at 9-1 in their regular league season and battling the 9-1 Toledo Boomers last Friday in a tiebreaking league playoff game at North Bend High School. The final score was a hard-fought 42-40 in the Panther’s favor that put them in first place as the champions of the Sunset Conference for 2018.

The Panthers are now 17-6 overall for the season at rank No. 9 in the OSAA 2A rankings.

The Boomers were the biggest rival for the Panthers this year, breaking their eight-game winning streak at 47-28 on Feb. 9 at the Panther’s home court after the Panthers had beat them earlier in the year at Toledo at 61-58.

League play ended with the two teams at 9-1, having only been defeated by one another the entire year. Normally, league placement in the Sunset Conference is decided solely on the team’s win to loss ratio, but in case of a tie, the only way to decide things is one final match.

The game remained neck-and-neck most of the night, with each quarter ending with the teams only a single score’s worth of points apart.

The first quarter had the two team’s testing the water, ultimately ending with the Boomer’s slightly ahead at 10-9. The second quarter mirrored the first with both teams scoring the same number to keep the Boomers ahead at 20-18 going into the second half.

The second half started grim for the Panthers as the Boomers gained a nine-point lead early into the third quarter, but the Panthers dug deep to match it with a run of their own to close the gap at 31-30 in the Boomers favor to end the third. The final stretch was back and forth but the Panthers managed to out-play the Boomers in the final few moments to take a narrow 42-40 victory.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the girls overall. They went out and played a strong effort, well-executed game,” said Coach Chris Clark. “When you play a team that kicks your butt by 19 points, it’s hard to come back and beat them only a week or so later, but we pulled together and executed a game plan that won it for us.”

The Panther’s star player Paris Newdall suffered a broken nose during the game, but still managed to put 10 points on the board, while Kayleanna Ridens managed to pick up the slack and take the top score for the Panthers at 14 points.

From here, the Panthers enter the battle for the state championship, where they will host the Lost River Pirates this Saturday at 1 p.m. The Panthers faced Lost River earlier this season in a non-league game, where the Pirates took a 44-32 victory. If the Panthers can stay in the playoffs, they’ll end up travelling to Pendleton to play in the OSAA 2A basketball tournament.

“It takes a lot to punch your ticket and take things to the convention center,” said Clark. “Both teams want that really badly. We’ll have a game plan in place and if we execute it efficiently, we can go out and make this happen to make it to Pendleton.”

All Conference Awards

Last Saturday, the teams of the Sunset Conference convened to decide on all conference awards. Paris Newdall was awarded Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row, as well as a first team nomination along with Kayleanna Ridens.

Brandee Allen received a second team nomination despite missing several games due to injury, while Jordan Rucker and Brianna Seuser-Smith received honorable mentions.

Coach Chris Clark was voted Coach of the Year by the other coaches of the Sunset Conference after leading his team to the league title and hopefully beyond into the state playoffs.

“I’ve been so lucky to bring these kids where they are and watch them grow up,” Clark said. “It’s really the kids that help the coach succeed and, I’ve been honored.”