By JOHN GUNTHER/THE WORLD
COOS BAY — The long and winding road to a state championship is complete for Philomath’s girls basketball team and senior leader Sage Kramer.
The Warriors beat Corbett 46-35 in the final of the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 4A tournament Saturday night at Marshfield High School, sending Kramer and fellow senior teammates K Bacho, Reagan Larson and Cassidy Lewis out on top.
“I don’t know what to think,” Kramer said, trying to explain her feelings. “Thank you God.
“We’ve been working so hard.”
The Warriors hoped to get a title much earlier in Kramer’s career.
Kramer made the all-tournament first team as a freshman when the Warriors lost to eventual champion Baker and then fell to Newport in the third-place game.
Then came the pandemic years.
“We’ve been through so much,” said Philomath coach Ben Silva.
“Two years ago we were the hands-down favorite going into the tourney and they shut it down an hour before we were going to play. Last year, we had three seniors not play for various reasons and we still made it to overtime in the championship game (a loss to Hidden Valley in the 4A showcase event).
“We finally got the job done.”
To win the title, Philomath beat a Corbett team that was riding a wave of momentum after entering the playoffs as the No. 11 seed. They won a road game at Banks to get into the tournament and then beat No. 3 seed Baker in the quarterfinals and the champion of their own league Madras in the semifinals.
But Philomath kept the Cardinals from getting into a rhythm in the title game.
“(Defense) is our bread and butter,” Silva said. “If you can hold a team to 35 points, I can find a way to score 36.”
The Warriors kept Corbett from getting the ball inside in the first half and pushed the Cardinals far enough outside that their normally strong three-point shooting was off.
“They’re good shooters,” Silva said. “We’re going to make them shoot three feet outside the 3-point line.”
Ella Holwege made a long three-pointer to open the game for Corbett, but the Cardinals missed their next 15 before Allyson Schimel made one to close the half.
In between those two shots, Corbett scored just 11 points and Philomath built a double-digit lead.
The Warriors were up 24-17 at the break and still led by seven entering the fourth. Every time Corbett had a chance to pull closer, they misfired.
“We just never could get it going,” coach Bill Schimel said. “The fight, the defense was there. We just couldn’t get a few buckets to get the momentum going.”
Corbett finished just 4-for-28 from three-point range and 11-for-58 overall.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals also struggled to contain Kramer and Philomath post Abigail Brown.
Kramer scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, also nabbing four steals. Brown had 11 points and six boards and Reagan Larson had 11 rebounds as the Warriors were relentless on the boards.
“Their offensive rebounds torched us,” Bill Schimel said.
Holwege had 13 points, five steals and four assists for Corbett. Grace Merrill had seven points and seven rebounds and Allyson Schimel had six points.
Corbett did get within 42-35 on a three-pointer by Lilly Schimel with 1:56 to go, but couldn’t score again.
That enabled Philomath to win the state title for the first time since 2000 — it was the fourth in all for the Warriors.
“It’s incredible,” Brown said. “This has been our goal.
“It feels so good to play with these girls. They are incredible.”
The Warriors were among the favorites all year, but ignoring that was one of their keys to success, Kramer said.
“We came out every game saying seeds, rankings, none of it matters,” she said. “It’s who is going to fight more.”
Last year’s loss to Hidden Valley in the title game provided a little extra motivation, Brown said.
“We knew what it feels like to lose,” she said. “We went out with a fire. We were not going to let that happen again.”
While Philomath celebrated its title with a net-cutting ceremony, Bill Schimel said he hopes his team will be proud of its accomplishment after the sting of Saturday’s game wears off.
“I’m very proud,” he said. “This program, from where we started two years ago, having been last in league, we turned it around.”
The team will have to do some recruiting to get back to the Bay Area next year for the state tournament after it drops to 3A. Corbett had just nine girls in the entire program this year and four are seniors.
The Cardinals sent them out on quite a trip, even if it did come up just short of a title.
“What a run,” Bill Schimel said.
Notes: Kramer was the only player who was a unanimous selection to the all-tournament team. The others on the first team were Allyson Schimel, Baker’s Jozie Ramos, Sasha Esquiro of Madras and Paige Doerr of Marist Catholic. The second team included Brown, Rylan Davis of Madras, Ariel Tobiasson of Cascade and Hidden Valley’s Skylar Willey and Teryn Powers. Madras received the sportsmanship trophy.
In Saturday’s other trophy games, Madras beat Hidden Valley 48-41 for third place and Baker beat Marist Catholic 57-48 for fourth.