The Creswell girls – playing at the state level for the first time – got tripped up under the bright lights, losing 39-32 to 16th-seeded Oregon Episcopal in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A high school basketball tournament at Marshfield High School in North Bend on Thursday, March 3.
The following day, No. 9-seeded Creswell fell to No. 5 Santiam Christian 57-33 in a consolation game.
“We had a nightmare second quarter (0 points) against Oregon Episcopal and a nightmare first quarter (2 points, trailed 17-2) against Santiam,” Creswell coach Tyler Hollingsworth said. “But if we played that OES team 10 times, I think we would easily beat them most of the time. Holding them under 40 points, I would expect to win that game. But we were throwing the ball away on fast breaks and not playing like we usually play.
“It didn’t help that Emme (Whitson) rolled her ankle and was out for several minutes.”
Whitson, a fourth-year player who leads the team in scoring, rolled her ankle again in the fourth quarter and sat out for a few more minutes.
“It’s unfortunate that we get to state and she rolls her ankle twice after never having any injuries her whole career,” Hollingsworth said.
“Against Santium, Emme played and played hard but she didn’t have the same explosiveness. It’s a bummer for her, I feel bad for her, she’s carried us all year long, and the bad ankle kept her from being her usual self.”
Oregon Episcopal’s Cayton Smith had scored 39 points in her team’s upset win over top-seeded Willamina, but the Bulldogs kept her bottled up for most of the game, as she connected on just 4-of-16 field-goal attempts.
“She had 19, but 10 of those were on free throws and five of those free throws came late when we had to foul,” Hollingsworth said. “So she didn’t really hurt us, and overall we played good defense against them.”
Whitson finished with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals to lead the Bulldogs. Lauren Bailey added 6 points and 9 rebounds, and Samairah Quinones had 6 points and 6 rebounds.
Turnovers proved to be the undoing of the ’Dogs in both games, as they committed 28 in the first game and 29 in the second. Those miscues led to a combined 37 points.
“A lot of our turnovers were traveling calls, because we were too amped up,” Hollingsworth said. “But that’s a product of being in that environment.”
Against Santiam Christian, Creswell missed a layup on its opening possession and struggled to find its range.
“Once we fell behind 8-0, 10-0, from that point on there’s more pressure to score,” Hollingsworth said.
Whitson again topped all Creswell scorers with 11 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals. Dakota Carson had 8 points and 8 rebounds.
Although it was not the finish anyone had envisioned, the Creswell girls made a pretty amazing run to reach state, and they’ve set the foundation for future success.
“Hopefully, some of these girls stay hungry and come back ready to make another run,” the coach said. “We’ve had a really good season. I’m proud of the way they fought and never gave up.”
Note: Three new coaches have been hired for the spring sports season at Creswell. Craig Leonard, a volunteer assistant last year, was named temporary head baseball coach, Chris Whitmore takes a one-year leave of absence. Leonard’s son Cameron plays on the team. The two other coaches are both for tennis. Dan Smathers, who already coaches girls soccer, will be the boys tennis coach. His son Andrew will be on the team. Amanda Lewis, an executive assistant at Creswell Middle School, takes the reins of the girls tennis team. She coached youth tennis in Texas before moving to Oregon.