OREGON CITY — The championship trophy seemed out of reach, with the Astoria girls trailing Oregon City by 16 points with less than 10 minutes left in Sunday’s Division II finale of the Les Schwab Northwest Summer Basketball tournament.
But the Lady Fishermen put on a furious finish to knock off the host school 44-43 to end their summer season posing with a championship trophy.
Julia Norris sparked the late rally when she faked a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, took two dribbles into the lane and sent a floater toward the hoop that crawled around the rim before dropping through the net, bringing Astoria within 10 with five minutes to play.
Hailey O’Brien ripped the net with a jumper from the left side, and Norris chased down a deep ball in the corner of the court before whipping a pass inside to Brooklynn Hankwitz for a layup.
Astoria players jumped to their feet on the bench. Oregon City called timeout.
The Lady Fishermen were within six with 2:12 to play.
Oregon City missed a free throw coming out of the break, and Astoria quickly flipped the court leading to another Hankwitz layup.
Two more Pioneer misses at the stripe kept the comeback window open. Astoria looked to pound the ball inside to Hankwitz once more. She received the pass, drew a double team and quickly shifted the ball across the lane to O’Brien. One more pass put the ball into Norris’ hands at the top of the arc, and she hit a trey that trimmed the margin to a single point with a minute on the clock.
“We needed more points, so I moved the ball to get us a better look. We have some great shooters,” Hankwitz said. “We kept our heads up. We started hitting shots, and that got us excited. It’s a fun way to end the summer.”
Another empty possession for Oregon City gave Astoria a chance for its first lead since the late stages of the first half.
O’Brien drove the baseline and ended up drawing a crowd under the basket.
“I saw an open lane and started driving, then two girls came on me,” O’Brien said. “I peeked around, saw an open teammate and knew she would make the basket.”
That teammate was Norris, who took the pass at the edge of the lane and put a quick shot off the glass for what proved to be the winning points with 36.4 seconds left.
Oregon City spent another timeout, and Astoria players leapt into the air excitedly on their way to the sideline.
“When I saw the pass coming to me my first thought was ‘Oh God’, but once it hit the backboard I knew it was going in,” Norris said. “Everyone was pretty hyped about it, but we still had 30 seconds left.”
The Pioneers got two chances at a winning bucket, but the last shot came in short, and the ball got lost in a jumble of legs when the horn sounded. Astoria’s bench emptied onto the court for a celebration on the center-court logo.
“They really picked it up and it was great to see that emotion,” Astoria coach Mike Jacobson said. “This is Oregon City’s jayvee team, but it’s still a bunch of sophomores and juniors at a great program. I think our girls are starting to realize their potential.”
Astoria got into the free-throw bonus midway through the first half and took advantage by going 12-for-14 (.857) from the stripe, which accounted for more than half of their points heading into the break.
Norris led the Lady Fishermen with 17 points, while Hankwitz scored 15.
Astoria’s other test during the tournament came in a 47-44 quarterfinal win over Wapato on Saturday. The teams traded the lead seven times before the Lady Fishermen pulled in front for good on a Mollie Matthews 3-pointer early in the second half.
Moments later, Halle Helmersen dribbled the curve of the 3-point arc before tossing a pass over the top of the defense to feed Kelsey Fausett for a layup.
Astoria kept it going when Norris tiptoed the sideline, weaved through a crowd of white shirts to move across midcourt before finding O’Brien in the corner for a 3 that crawled along the back of the rim, took a hop on the front of the iron and trickled through the net for a 39-33 lead.
Sophie Long drove the baseline and scored to expand the margin, and the Lady Fishermen played basketball’s version of keep away down the stretch. Astoria whipped passes to all corners, taking half a minute off the clock on four consecutive possessions to protect the lead.
“We knew we were ahead, so it we saw a lane we took it, but we had to be smart about it,” O’Brien said.
The clincher came when Fausett drew a charge in the center-court circle to get the ball back, and O’Brien converted the turnover into points with a drive down the middle that ended with an underhand scoop over the front of the rim.
“That moment was huge for us,” Fausett said. “That gave us another chance to keep the ball away from them and run the clock down.”
Astoria led 47-40 approaching a minute to play.
Wapato made one last run, scoring on a pair of fast breaks to make it a one-possession game with 7.8 seconds left.
Astoria called timeout, and Helmersen took the ensuing inbounds pass and dribbled out most of the clock, while dodging a pair of aggressive defenders.
Wapato was left with 0.3 tenths, and the game ended with a 3/4-court heave that was well off the mark.
“We have a couple girls who will be four-year starters out there and some other third-year players,” Jacobson said. “They’ve been in those situations before, and that experience helped in a close game like that.”
Wapato sank a series of early 3s to take a 9-4 lead out of the gates, only to have Astoria rush back and take its first lead 13-11 when center Kajsa Jackson took a bounce pass in the lane and put a shot off the glass.
“We had to communicate better on defense,” Jacobson said. “We started doing a better job coming out on their shooters.”
The Lady Fishermen took a 24-22 halftime lead after O’Brien sent a bounce pass through the lane to feed Fausett for a layup.
Astoria followed with a 41-21 blowout win over Stayton in the semifinals. The team opened the tournament Friday with a 76-49 win over Hockinson, Washington.