The Marist girls basketball did something Saturday night that very few teams are able to do — the Spartans left the Brick House with a win, 48-39, in a first-round game of the 4A state playoffs.

Not even the No. 2-ranked Banks Braves could defeat the Astoria Lady Fishermen on their home floor this year, where Astoria had won seven straight.

And whenever someone challenged the Fishermen, they always seemed to come up with a last-second miracle shot or a fantastic fourth quarter.

There were no miracle shots Saturday, and the only fantastic finish belonged to the Spartans.

But wasn’t easy.

With Marist leading 29-21 midway through the third quarter, the Fishermen reeled off seven straight points, then finally took the lead early in the fourth on back-to-back 3-pointers from Halle Helmersen and Hailey O’Brien.

It was an intense, physical, high-scoring battle from there.

Marist answered with a 3-pointer from six-foot sophomore Ruby Vlahov, Julia Norris scored to give Astoria a two-point lead, and a free throw from O’Brien put the Fish up, 37-34.

Scores by Maggie Stephenson and Vlahov put Marist back in front, but only briefly, as a short jumper by Kajsa Jackson gave Astoria its last lead at 39-38 with 2:55 left.

That’s where it all fell apart for the Fishermen, on missed shots and turnovers, and points for the Spartans off turnovers.

Vlahov led all scorers with 16 points, seven in the final three minutes of the game.

Her layup off a steal with two minutes remaining sparked a 10-0 run to close the game for Marist, which was also 6-for-7 at the free throw line in the final 1:32. She had another score off a turnover for a five-point lead with 1:11 left.

“Too many turnovers at crucial times,” said Astoria coach Mike Jacobson. “We got the lead and three straight turnovers that turned into six points for them. That killed the momentum we had built.”

Helmersen scored 11 points and O’Brien added 10 for Astoria, which had seven of its 18 turnovers in the fourth quarter. Jackson had eight points off the bench.

The Lady Fishermen could be a Final Four participant next season — and definitely the Cowapa League favorites — as they return five all-league starters.

“The girls had a great season,” Jacobson said. “First league championship since 2001, and first state tournament appearance in the round of 16 since 2007. They have a lot to be proud of. I told them to hold their heads high and be proud.”

Gary Henley is a sports reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 503-861-8493 or

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