FOREST GROVE — Lucy Bodner, Maddi Utti, Sydney Villegas … the three seniors on the Seaside girls basketball team left the floor in the most fitting way possible Saturday at Forest Grove High School — as winners.
They didn’t get the gold ring, but the Gulls did bounce back from Friday’s loss to Sutherlin in the semifinals with a 53-40 win over Marshfield in the third-place game of the OSAA 4A state tournament.
The victory over the Pirates gave the Gulls a third-place finish at state — not bad for a team that was seeded ninth in the Sweet 16 round.
“Highest finish in the history of the girls’ program,” said Seaside’s Mike Hawes, in his first year back as the girls’ varsity coach. “Another final eight appearance and another 20-win season.
“This is obviously the best four-year stretch, so we’re really happy,” said Hawes, who took over for Wally Hamer after last season. “After yesterday, a four-minute stretch of basketball today made a huge difference.”
Following the loss to Sutherlin in Friday’s semifinal round, the Gulls “were disappointed, absolutely,” Hawes said. “We felt like it was within our grasp to get to the championship. But we also said, ‘girls, we’re playing for third place in the state.’ I don’t think many were predicting us to be league co-champs and play in this game.”
And once Saturday’s game tipped off, the Lady Gulls looked like they belonged there all along.
Marshfield held an early 8-5 lead, but six straight made free throws near the end of the first quarter and to start the second led to a 14-1 run for the Gulls.
A leaning jumper by Utti and a bank shot by Bodner had Seaside in front 19-9 with 5:10 left in the first half.
But the game quickly took a turn for the worse for Seaside, as Marshfield’s Samantha Waldrop and Alex Locati both hit 3-pointers (Locati’s with one second left in the half) to force a 24-24 halftime tie.
“I was not a happy coach at halftime,” Hawes said. “I’m usually pretty calm. This was a bit more ‘we have to take care of the basketball, we have to compete!’ I felt like we weren’t doing anything during that little stretch, quite frankly.”
The Pirates even opened the second half with a trey from Ravyn Miranda for a 27-24 lead.
But the Gulls found a rhythm, all from the outside.
Bryre Babbitt hit a mid-range jump shot and Jetta Ideue popped in a 3-pointer for a 29-27 lead.
Both teams heated up in a well-played third quarter, which ended with the Pirates and Gulls still deadlocked, 35-35.
No one could have predicted an 18-2 run to start the fourth, but that’s what happened — in Seaside’s favor.
Two free throws by Villegas and a layup by Ideue started the rally, and the Gulls were on their way.
The running game opened up, and Villegas found herself on the finishing end, as the senior — held scoreless over the first three quarters — scored 12 points in the final period, including 10 in a 14-0 run by the Gulls that pushed their lead from 39-37 to 53-37.
Marshfield did not even score until a 3-pointer from Jazmin Chavez as time expired.
Other than a few bright spots during Saturday’s game, it was a rough tournament and a brutal two days for the young Pirates, who had four sophomores in their starting lineup.
One night after Marshfield went 2-for-22 from the 3-point line (and 6-for-49 overall) in a Friday loss to Banks, the Pirates were 4-for-30 from the 3-point line in the loss to the Gulls, 14-of-64 overall.
“We really stepped up in the fourth quarter,” said Utti, who had 16 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks, and was named Seaside’s Player of the Game. “Everyone hit the important shots that they needed to, and we were flying around on defense. I think (the Pirates) were fatigued, and we were in better shape.”
Hawes, meanwhile, left it up to his seniors.
“It’s Maddi, Sydney and Lucy — their last game,” he said. “We just said, ‘be heroic.’ I know you’re tired, and I knew (Marshfield) would be. So we weathered that little stretch at the end of the second quarter.”
Utti finished her high school career the way she wanted, before she heads off for Fresno State.
“We’re really excited and happy with the way we played,” she said. “We were ready to come back stronger and better (after Friday’s loss to Sutherlin).
“It was a tough loss, not making it to the finals. It was an emotional game for all of us. We definitely talked about it. It was really emotional for all three of (the seniors). We knew today was going to be the last time we were going to play together, and we wanted to win it for each other. Made history.”
Sutherlin won Friday’s Final Four game with one of the tournament’s all-time best shooting performances, from Bulldog senior Taylor Stricklin.
Seaside built a 31-27 halftime lead, thanks to 12 first half points from Utti. But Sutherlin’s 6-foot guard knocked down three straight 3-pointers to start the third quarter, and hit two more midway through the second half as the Bulldogs extended their lead to 49-36.
The Gulls closed to within 50-42, but Sutherlin made 7-of-8 free throws in the final minutes to close it out. The Bulldogs finished 11-of-29 from the 3-point line.
Utti had 19 points and Villegas added 14 for Seaside, while Stricklin had 24 and Harlee Baker tossed in 18 for Sutherlin, which would overcome an 18-point deficit Saturday night to beat Banks, giving the Bulldogs their fourth straight state championship.
“Although the Stricklin girl made tremendous shots, we threw the ball away for about two minutes at the end of the second quarter to let them right back in the ball game,” Hawes said.
Utti also had four assists and three steals, as Seaside’s Player of the Game.