CORVALLIS – The Springfield High School girls basketball team wasn’t surprised to find itself facing Crescent Valley in the 5A state championship game – the same matchup as last year. In fact, the Millers were driven all season by a sense of revenge.
Top-ranked Springfield, which completed its conference schedule without a loss, used its stifling defense to shut down No. 6 Crescent Valley 44-29 on Friday night in Gill Coliseum to earn its first state title in girls basketball since 2012.
“This is the redemption. This is our redemption,” said Danaeja Romero-Ah Sam, star junior for Springfield and reigning Class 5A State Player of the Year. “We were talking about this all year, because we knew we were gonna match up with them eventually.”
For Williamson, he knew his team wanted this title rematch on the biggest stage.
“I know our girls wanted to play Crescent Valley,” Williamson said. “They wanted that chance again. We just wanted a chance to show that we could beat them and win a state title.”
The craving even infected players who didn’t play in last year’s game. Springfield standout sophomore JB Robinson, who transferred to Springfield this year from Georgia, knew what was at stake.
“I saw the whole thing go down last year and I know how personal this game was for (the team),” Robinson said.
For head coach Joe Williamson, it was a night of firsts.
“Personally, it’s my first state title, so this is really special for me,” he said. “All these girls, it’s their first title too, and that’s pretty special for them. There’s a pretty good basketball tradition at Springfield, and I think it’s good to get another bracket put up in our gym.”
The Millers held CV to 31.4% shooting on the night, and allowed only two points in the third quarter.
And it wasn’t just the championship game where the defense was stellar. In Springfield’s quarterfinal win over Mountain View, the Millers held MV to 22.2% shooting. In the semis they held Crater to 36.7% shooting, and beat Crater 26-6 in the second quarter alone. Springfield won the title while averaging a whopping 13.7 steals per game at the state tourney, and in the finals rematch, the major change for Springfield was that defense.
“We were the aggressor. We were in a zone defense all last year, but we became a man-to-man team this year,” Williamson said. “It was really all about our man-to-man defense.”
That defense stifled the reigning state champs Crescent Valley, and gave Springfield the revenge it had been craving since last season.
To go along with the stellar defensive play, the Millers also had the second-best scoring offense at state, and shot the ball better than any team there. The balanced attack was lethal, and it’s a testament to the teamwork and chemistry this team has built all season.
“It just brings us back to our team chemistry, and what we do. Our whole culture is just about coming back,” Romero-Ah Sam said. “It was our whole team, our whole mentality.”
A redemption arc a year in the making finally complete, and Springfield added a third girls basketball state championship trophy to their case. The first two came in 2011-12, when the Millers were led by current WNBA player Mercedes Russell. The players in this year’s team now join that elite company, something they’ve discussed this season.
“We’ve been talking about it all year. We look up at that poster that’s been in there since 2012, and we know that we’re gonna put a new one up there now,” Romero-Ah Sam said. “That’s never gonna leave. It’s always gonna stay there.”
One person has been there for all three state championships. Audrea Shelley has been the Springfield Athletic Director for 18 years, and was present for the Mercedes Russell-led teams. How does this year’s team compare?
“Definitely the same, from a competition standpoint. Obviously, we don’t have a 6’6” Mercedes,” Shelley joked. “But we have the heart, and the grit, and the fight, and the defense. They just work so hard.”
After a decade of being unable to add another trophy to the case, the Springfield High girls basketball team is once again state champions.
“We’re kind of a small town school, so it’s big. It’s big for our community. It’s big for our district. It’s big for our school, our kids, and our students,” Shelley said. “It’s a great experience for everyone, and that’s what high school is all about.”