SCAPPOOSE Trailing with less than a minute to play in an elimination game of the Northwest League District Playoffs, the Knappa girls basketball team simply did not want to see their season end with a loss.
In an amazing comeback, an 11-0 Knappa run in the final 35.2 seconds of the game propelled the Lady Loggers to a 59-49 win over the Gaston Greyhounds Saturday at Scappoose High School.
With the win, Knappa (15-10 overall) qualified for the 16-team Class 2A state playoffs for a fourth straight year. The Loggers will meet Riddle (20-5) in a first-round matchup Friday at Riddle.
If Knappa wins, the Loggers will advance to the state tournament, Feb. 29 to March 1 in Pendleton.
In this third meeting between the two squads, the Loggers got off to a slow start and trailed 14-6 with 3:47 left in the first quarter. Junior post Rea Elliot, who had a game-high 19 points and a career-high seven blocked shots, led a Logger comeback with her strong inside scoring and accurate perimeter shooting in helping Knappa trim the deficit to 17-14 after one.
"Maybe the girls felt a little nervous, because they just didn't play too well in the first half," said Haglund. "Whenever your opponents gets an early lead, sometime's you just never know what can happen after that. We took care of business in the second half though. It would be really nice to go to Pendleton and that's what we're hoping to do."
The Loggers seemed somewhat out of synch offensively in the second period with a scoring drought over three minutes as they trailed 20-14. Freshman Kacie Cameron (eight points, seven rebounds, five steals) scored the Loggers first basket of the quarter, with 4:43 left in the quarter.
The two squads continued trading baskets the remainder of the quarter. A jumper by junior Carly Sproul narrowed the halftime margin to 25-24.
Utilizing an effective press to create turnovers and convert scoring opportunities into layups and open jumpers, the Loggers gained momentum and appeared to take control in the third. A 27-24 Logger deficit vanished quickly with a 16-0 Knappa run.
Freshman Shailei Wright (nine points, six assists) and sophomore Sarrah Lindgren (seven points) fired in 3-pointers, fueling the Loggers' offensive surge. After Elliot blocked a shot and hauled in the rebound, she ran the length of the court and scored a driving layup, to make it 40-27 with 3:49 on the clock.
"It's exciting to see our team in the state playoffs again and we're really happy to have a chance of going to Pendleton if we can win one more game," said Elliot, who earned a NWL Second Team All-Star selection.
The resilient Greyhounds (15-9, 11-5) appeared to be down, but they didn't give up, trailing 40-30 after three. Knappa continued leading by double digits after junior Kristi Funk (12 points) scored underneath, making it 46-35.
After Funk fouled out with 3:14 left, it seemed to revitalize the Greyhounds and the momentum shifted in their favor. Gaston's 14-2 rally lifted them in front at 49-48 with 1:12 remaining and the Logger's postseason hopes seemed in jeopardy.
"I was trying to support my team as best as I could and I really wanted to be out there on the court," said Funk, a NWL First-Team All Star. "I sure felt nervous watching the last few minutes though from the bench. My teammates did a good job though and I'm really excited that we've reached the state playoffs."
After an exchange of turnovers on possessions by both teams, the clock continued winding down. Elliot, a 90-percent free throw shooter, was fouled by Gaston with 35.2 seconds left. Elliot sank 1-of-2, tying it at 49.
On Gaston's possession, Knappa's man-to-man defense forced a turnover on a five-second violation and the Loggers regained possession with 22.9 seconds left. Wright, a NWL Honorable Award winner, sank two from the line after being fouled with 12.9 on the clock, making it 51-49 for the sixth lead change of the contest.
"Shailei isn't one of our best free throw shooters, but those were the biggest shots she's made from the line all year," said Haglund. "We switched from our 2-3 zone to man defense the last few minutes and it was more effective for us."
On Gaston's following possession, Greyhounds coach Erik Lentz inexplicably called a timeout. Following a lengthy discussion among officials , Gaston was assessed a technical foul because he had no timeouts remaining. Elliot, who shoots all technical foul free throws, calmly sank two key shots, making it 53-49 with 9.3 seconds left.
"I felt a little nervous at the line, but I've been doing that all year, so I just concentrated well on making the shots," said Elliot. "I wasn't even aware what the violation was until after I shot the free throws. It seems like there's even more pressure on you in that situation, because there's nobody else out on the court, and it seems like it should be an easy shot."
The Loggers' press forced another Greyhound turnover and Wright was sent to the line after a Gaston foul. She sank both for a 55-49 lead. A quick Logger steal and a layup by Cameron, who was fouled for a three-point play opportunity, stopped the clock with 1.7 showing. Cameron didn't make the free throw, but she rebounded the missed shot and scored on a buzzer beater for the 59-49 final score.
"I think we're ready to face some strong teams in the state playoffs, but we'll have to be ready to play our best basketball now," said Haglund. "Nobody really knows too much about us, so we'll probably be considered the underdog. If we play as well as we're capable of playing though, I think we'll do OK in the playoffs. We have a good team, but we also have the potential to become a very good team."
Knappa has faced top-10 ranked teams all year, including NWL rivals Portland Christian (No. 3) and the No. 5 Riverdale Mavericks (23-3). The Loggers recorded one of its biggest wins of the season in 50-44 home win Feb. 2 over Riverdale.