In 2021 and 2022, Corbett girls basketball played an underdog role.
The young Cardinals were thrilled to reach the 4A Showcase quarterfinals in 2021, and they made a Cinderella run to the 4A final as the No. 11 seed in 2022, finishing as runners-up to Philomath.
But last season, after moving down to 3A, Corbett believed it was primed to win its first state title since 1987. So when the Cardinals fell in the 3A final to Coastal Range League rival Banks, a team they beat in two of three previous meetings, it was crushing.
“That was a tough one for that group to swallow,” coach Bill Schimel said. “That has stuck with them. It feels like they bring that fire to every game. That never has really left their mind.”
Behind two fourth-year starters in guards Ally Schimel and Ella Holwege and a third-year starter in forward Lilly Schimel, Corbett is playing with a sense of urgency this season. The Cardinals are 18-0 overall, 8-0 in the Coastal Range League, and ranked No. 1 in the OSAAtoday 3A coaches poll.
Corbett's resume includes two wins each over 4A No. 1 Astoria and 3A No. 5 Banks. The Cardinals also have defeated 3A No. 2 Amity, 3A No. 7 Pleasant Hill, 4A No. 7 Seaside and 4A No. 8 Madras.
Compared to the last two seasons, when the Cardinals finished 23-4 and 25-4, Bill Schimel said his team is playing with a higher level of maturity.
“Before we would rely so much on our outside shot,” he said. “We loved the three-point shot, which is great. But when teams really focus on taking that away, now these girls are mature enough – and almost prefer – to attack and get to the free-throw line. I think that's been the difference this season that makes them so much tougher.”
The 5-foot-10 Ally Schimel, a 3A first-team pick last season, is averaging 25.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 steals. At more than 1,500 career points, she is believed to be the school's all-time leading scorer.
Primarily a jump-shooter in previous seasons, Ally Schimel has balanced her game with drives to the basket. She leads the team in free throw attempts and free throw percentage.
“With her length, being 5-10 and athletic, she gets to the rim pretty easily,” said Bill Schimel, her father. “She's either finishing there or she's at the free throw line. It makes it a tough cover for other teams because really she's a point guard in a longer body.”
The 5-7 Holwege, who made the 3A second team last season, has nearly 1,200 career points. The team's primary point guard, she is putting up 16.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.
Lilly Schimel, 3A honorable mention a year ago, uses her 5-8 frame to battle inside, leading the team in rebounds at 8.5 per game. She also is averaging 13.4 points and 3.1 steals.
Corbett lost two starters from last season in guards Maddie Lanter and Taylor Donahue, a junior who transferred to Sandy and is focusing on softball. The Cardinals have filled the spots with seniors Ava Blatchford and Carly Hardie, soccer players who turned out for basketball for the first time last season.
Corbett showed its character with two early wins over Astoria, which has not lost to any other Oregon team. The Cardinals topped Astoria 51-49 in a tournament at Madras and came back six days later to win 44-43 at Astoria, shaking off an early 16-4 deficit.
“Pulling those out gave them confidence going into the rest of the year in 3A,” said Bill Schimel, whose team won at Amity 55-51 in between the wins over Astoria.
The Cardinals defeated Banks 51-43 at home on Jan. 5 and won at Banks 53-45 on Jan. 25 despite being shut out of their gym for two weeks due to busted pipes from cold weather. They practiced at a rented gym in Gresham the day before facing Banks.
“We didn't have a full-court practice for 13 days,” Bill Schimel said. “We were worried, but that senior group, they're super competitive and motivated. We didn't play our best ball, but they gutted it out. They got a little tired, but the pushed through it.”
South Medford drops Willamette
South Medford showed that it isn't ready to relinquish its dominance of the 6A Southwest Conference with a 45-32 home win over Willamette on Jan. 26.
With first place on the line, the Panthers (15-3, 6-0) turned back the Wolverines (13-6, 5-1) as junior guard Sara Schmerbach had 16 points, five rebounds and three assists and sophomore post Mayen Akpan added 15 rebounds and three steals.
South Medford, which extended its conference winning streak to 43 on Tuesday by beating South Eugene, moved from No. 4 to No. 2 in the 6A coaches poll with the win. The Wolverines fell from No. 2 to No. 4.
“All year long they’ve been ranked No. 1 or No. 2 by the coaches, so we knew how good they were and it’s not debatable,” Panthers coach Tom Cole told the Rogue Valley Times. “I think that we made a big step tonight in showing that on any given night, we can be really good, too.”
South Medford led 24-17 at half and pushed its edge as high as 12 points in the third quarter before Willamette rallied, getting to within 35-32 on a three-pointer by junior Maddy Warberg with 6:22 left in the game.
But the Panthers responded by scoring the last 10 points . Sophomore Dyllyn Howell made a three-pointer on an offensive rebound by Akpan, sophomore Taylor Young converted a layup off a steal by senior Kim Ceron-Romero, and Schmerbach drove for a basket to make it 42-32.
Henley bounces back
No. 2 Henley stands alone in first place in the 4A Skyline Conference after a 57-36 home win over No. 5 Klamath Union on Tuesday.
Sophomore Lilly Fussell had 11 points, eight rebounds and four steals and senior Annie Campos had 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and six steals for Henley (15-1, 3-0). The Hornets also got 10 points each from senior Jewell Northcutt and sophomore Senia Campos.
Henley led 26-13 at half and held off the Pelicans (11-2, 2-1), who got no closer than nine points the rest of the way. Senior Keely Hall made three three-pointers and scored 13 points for Klamath Union, which also got 11 points from senior Kshalee Thomas.
The Pelicans made seven three-pointers but finished 3 of 16 on free throws.
The Hornets (15-1, 3-0) bounced back from their first loss of the season, 74-66 to No. 4 Cascade in a game at Hidden Valley on Jan. 27.
Clark paces Sutherlin
Junior forward Addyson Clark scored a career-high 32 points as No. 3 Sutherlin rolled over visiting Cascade Christian 55-39 in a game between the 3A Far West League's unbeaten teams Jan. 26.
The 6-0 Clark scored 17 points in the first half as the Bulldogs (19-1, 10-0) opened a 31-17 lead over the Challengers (13-6, 8-1). Sutherlin took the edge in the league standings in the only regular-season meeting between the teams.
The Bulldogs beat Lakeview 54-26 on Jan. 27 and South Umpqua 59-24 on Wednesday to extend their winning streak to 18. They have won 54 consecutive league games.
Sutherlin and Cascade Christian, division leaders within the Far West, are likely to meet again in a league seeding game before the 3A playoffs.
1A Skyline showdown
No. 2 North Douglas took over first place in the 1A Skyline League on Tuesday with a 41-28 win at No. 10 Umpqua Valley Christian.
Junior guard Brooklyn Cyr scored 18 points and senior guard Maddy Vaughn added 12 points for the five-time reigning Skyline champion Warriors (16-2, 9-0), who extended their league winning streak to 53.
Umpqua Valley Christian (18-3, 8-1) drew within 30-25 midway through the fourth quarter but North Douglas responded with a 9-0 run to pull away. Vaughn had a rebound basket and two free throws and Cyr hit a three-pointer during the surge.
“In the past when we’ve had a little lead, we’ve kind of let up and let teams catch up,” Cyr told the News-Review. “This year we’re so well-rounded and all trust each other so much that we had it together, even when it was a six-seven point game. We just kept our cool the whole time.”
North Douglas coach Jody Cyr recorded his 100th win with the Warriors.