Danaeja Romero Ah-Sam gives her sister, Darissa, a bear hug after Springfield's 5A title win over Crescent Valley (Greg Artman)
Danaeja Romero Ah-Sam gives her sister, Darissa, a bear hug after Springfield's 5A title win over Crescent Valley (Greg Artman)

An 11-0 run to end the third quarter propelled top-seeded Springfield to a 44-29 win over defending champion Crescent Valley Friday evening at the OSAA / OnPoint Community Credit Union State Basketball Championships played at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis. The win avenged a 50-39 loss last year.

“Our girls wanted to play Crescent Valley, there was no doubt about that,” said Springfield head coach Joe Williamson. “We wanted to play them during the regular season. We couldn’t make it happen but were really happy to get another shot at them.”

“Playing them brought back our fire,” said Danaeja Romero Ah-Sam. “We wanted to beat them. t feels so great. A lot of emotions. Even our coach, who never cries, was crying.”

Springfield (24-5) won by playing tenacious man-to-man defense and capitalizing on its offensive opportunities. The Millers completely bottled up senior guard Gabby Bland, who torched them for 31 points in the championship game last year. The senior sharpshooter scored only seven this year, on 3-of-8 shooting, under the constant pressure of sophomore JB Robinson.

Robinson wasn’t part of the team last year but the transfer from Georgia watched from the stands as Bland lit up her future team.

“I watched that game and knew what I needed for us to do in order to be able to win it next year,” she said.

“Last year we played zone the whole game,” Willamson said. “We’re a different team this year. We play man and we get after you.”

Williamson said that asking Robinson to shut Bland down was an easy decision.

“We knew JB would guard the best guard in every game here,” he explained. “She shut everybody down. Seven points is a lot different than 31. She’s amazing. She’s really a legit high-level defender with a lot of energy. We feed off of her.”

For the second straight game, Springfield got off to a slow start. Three buckets, all assisted, staked Crescent Valley to a 7-1 lead. Springfield took a collective breath, then got a baseline drive for two from Kayla Morris which gave them a jolt of energy. The Millers scored two more hoops, both assisted, and took their first lead on a three pointer from Romero Ah-Sam in transition following a scintillating Robinson block.

The teams went back and forth the rest of the well-played quarter, with Crescent Valley ahead, 12-10, on Haley Bland’s second corner three of the game.

The second quarter was characterized by tough Springfield defense, which created turnovers and opportunities. The Millers scored six in a row, four on conversions in close from Robinson, to take their largest lead of the half, 16-12.

“We started a little slow, but once we got our defense going, I felt pretty good about where we were,” Williamson said

“Summit is a great defensive team,” said CV coach Eric Gower. “They live off of creating turn overs. At times we didn’t take care of the ball enough.”

Trailing by more than one point for the first time in the game, Crescent Valley went back to what got the Raiders the lead in the first place. Passing the ball around and over the top of the defense, and remaining patient, the Raiders freed up Nicole Huang for a corner three, assisted by Greta Koegler, which cut the lead to one. Nicole Bland’s wing three, her third deep ball of the half, assisted by Huang, followed, as did a short Koegler jumper, assisted by Charlotte Patel. The 8-0 CV run put the Raiders ahead again, 20-16.

Springfield did not panic and responded with a surge of its own. A long-distance triple by Romero-Ah Sam with two minutes remaining before the half sliced Crescent Valley’s lead to one. One minute later Romero-Ah Sam came up with a steal and conversion to give the Millers a one-point lead at the break.

The game turned for good in Springfield’s favor with five minutes remaining in the third quarter. After a Molly Campbell bank shot, assisted by Huang, knotted the score at 22-22, Springfield scored 11 straight points to close the period. The run started when Morris punched a ball free on the defensive end, then scored on a baseline drive subsequently to put the Millers back on top.

A tying basket seemed inevitable for Crescent Valley after a steal and break away, but the Raiders missed the layup, stole the rebound away from Springfield only to lose the ball again, while two Miller players were still in the offensive zone. A feed ahead to Ryan Marshall, who dished to Robinson, extended the lead two more. Romero Ah-Sam piled on with a layup, giving Springfield its largest lead of the game. She then fed Robinson, who was positioned beyond the arc on the right wing. Robinson let it fly.

At halftime, while her teammates sat on the bench waiting for the third quarter to begin, Robinson practiced wing threes. She attempted nine, and swished five. She did it for just this moment.

The ball went in cleanly for three, but not before banking off of the glass.

“I think I was a little rushed on that shot,” Robinson said. “I think after how hard I worked defensively I owed myself one of those.”

The triple, with 1:26 remaining in the third, made the score 31-22 Springfield and, with the way the Millers were playing defense, essentially iced the game. Indeed, Crescent Valley managed only seven more points the entire game.

Crescent Valley’s attempt to come back was hindered by having only two team fouls after three. The Raiders had to foul and foul and foul before Springfield was in the bonus. The Millers took care of the ball, thereby limiting any CV runs; and made nine-of-10 free throws in the fourth quarter to remove all doubt over which team would be champion on this night.

Romero Ah-Sam finished with a game-high 17 points, with six steals. She was named Moda Health Player of the Game. But the honor could as easily have gone to Robinson, who scored 16 of her own while being in Gabby Bland’s hip pocket all night long. Gabby Bland scored just seven points despite playing all 32 minutes.

“She was really quick and face guarding me so it was really hard to get the ball,” Gabby Bland said. “I’ve been facing that all year. It’s pretty frustrating having to deal with that and work so hard to get open, but I just try to help my teammates get shots and opportunities, too.”

Bland is one of four key seniors who played her last high school game. After winning last year as an underdog, Crescent Valley was expected to be the heavy favorites this year, with no graduating impact players. But two impact players decided to concentrate on volleyball only this year, changing the expectations.

“I’m really proud of our team for making it this far,” Gabby Bland said. “We lost two really important players. At the beginning of the season I didn’t think we’d make it this far.”

“I’m proud of them,” Gower said. “They competed hard. There were a lot of expectations throughout the season. We just kept battling and battling and got better throughout the year.

“To win a championship, the breaks have to go your way. At times they didn’t. It is what it is.”

“I’m going to remember the whole experience and what I did with my teammates and how far we made it,” Gabby Bland said. “No other basketball team in CV history has made it to the state championship two years in a row.”

Huang was named Moda Health Player of the Game for Crescent Valley. The senior had just three points, but five assists, eight rebounds and eight steals. Campbell, another senior, finished with six points and six rebounds.

If you look over Springfield’s roster, with every key player back again next year, it’s hard not to think that the Millers could match the run of titles they enjoyed the last decade with 6-6 Mercedes Russell leading the way.

“I think this is a big deal,” Williamson said. “This is much more of a team win. And it isn’t over.”

In the girls’ 3rd/5th game..

No. 7 La Salle Prep d. No. 5 Crater, 55-50

La Salle Prep opened up a 22-5 lead after one, thanks to superb long-distance shooting and a befuddling zone defense, then spent the rest of the game trying to hold off hard-charging Crater.

The Comets, using their trademark relentless pressure, found success from beyond the arc in the second quarter, when they cut LSP’s lead to 29-18, then kept the pressure on, all the way to 50-50 on Addison Vranes key jumper with 70 ticks remaining.

Crater even had a chance to go ahead, but the shot was off the mark. La Salle Prep rebounded the basketball and made its free throws in the frenzied closing moments to preserve the win.

Ella Wedin led the way in scoring for the Falcons (22-6), with 19. But the stars of the show for La Salle were gritty guards Lindsey Kapanoske and Emma Buchanan, who combined for 24 points and five steals.

Sophomore guard Sage Winslow had a sensational effort bringing Crater (20-8) back into the game. She finished with 27 points, seven steals and three assists. Alas, the slow start and too many missed layups during the comeback attempt doomed the Comets.

In the girls’ 4th/6th game..

No. 2 Silverton d. No. 4 Putnam, 40-34

Silverton overcame a first quarter in which it scored just two points with surges over the next two quarters to win and capture fourth place.

Rowan Reilly’s layup three minutes into the third quarter put the Foxes ahead for good. Layups by Hannah Bashor and Kyleigh Brown helped extend Silverton’s lead to seven heading to the fourth quarter.

Putnam slashed the lead to just one point three times in the fourth quarter, but never went ahead. Silverton outscored the Kingsmen 9-4 down the stretch to clinch the win.

Brown had a huge game for Silverton (22-6). The junior guard scored 18 points and added 13 rebounds, five assists and five steals.

Brynne Bailey, who made four three-pointers, led Putnam (21-5) in scoring with 12.

Moda Health Players of the Game:

Danaeja Romero-Ah Sam, Springfield

Nicole Huang, Crescent Valley

Sportsmanship Award: Silverton HS

All-Tournament First Team:

Danaeja Romero-Ah Sam, JB Robinson, Springfield

Ella Wedin, La Salle Prep

Sage Winslow, Crater

Kyleigh Brown, Silverton

All-Tournament Second Team:

Juju Henderson, Springfield

Nicole Huang, Gabby Bland, Crescent Valley

Abigail Winslow, Crater

Rylee Leman, Putnam