Sports Zone, Springfield

Romero-Ah Sam to the rescue

Senior standout scores 27, helps send Millers to state tourney

SPRINGFIELD – With their season on the line – and hopes of winning back-to-back state titles in jeopardy – the Springfield High girls turned to a familiar figure, the two-time defending state player of the year. 

Danaeja Romero-Ah Sam understood the assignment, and took it from there.

“Our season was on the line … if we lost that, it wouldn’t have been the way we wanted the season to end,” said Romero-Ah Sam, who scored 10 of her game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Millers to a 61-51 comeback win over No. 10 Central and a berth in the state quarterfinals for the third straight season.

 “I knew that we just couldn’t lose, and especially since this is my last year, I just wanted to win, so I had to lock in.”

Romero-Ah Sam added 3 assists and 3 steals in the win for the short-handed Millers, who were playing without starter Kayla Morris, and had second-leading scorer Diamond Wright in foul trouble all night. 

“It was really important with the foul trouble that we were in. And with how things were going, we needed (Danaeja) to step up and just hit some big shots to maybe put our team at ease a little bit. So she did it, and that’s why she’s a two-time Oregon player of the year – she just steps up,” Springfield coach Joe Williamson said. “We’re happy to be going back to the quarterfinals. I do not take lightly the blessing of going to the state tournament. Some teams don’t go for decades, so I’m happy to have the opportunity to go back and make another run.”

Romero-Ah Sam fading away as two Central defenders contest.

Wright eventually fouled out with 4 minutes left in the game, but still chipped in 12 points and 5 rebounds in the win. Despite trailing in the final quarter and missing two starters on the floor, the Millers found a way, outscoring Central 22-9 in the fourth quarter – thanks in part to bench players stepping up in key moments.

“Diamond is one of the core players on our team, and it’s hard without her (on the floor) because she gives us length,” Romero-Ah Sam said. “But our bench helped a lot, and everybody stepped in to play her part. It was definitely hard without Diamond but with the bench players I knew we were gonna be fine.”

Part of Wright’s job on the evening, and one of the reasons for the foul trouble, was to slow down Central’s Hadley Craig, who had 22 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals in a losing effort. Craig’s play was the key reason Central was in the game, and leading in the second half, but the Millers held Craig to only 2 fourth-quarter points.

“We had girls step up. Kimora had some big shots in transition, Darissa hit a big three in the fourth quarter, and Mylah Wilson stepped up and made some plays,” Williamson said. “But the big thing was the defense. I felt we weren’t rebounding well early, and we really rebounded in the fourth quarter to hold them to one shot. And that really fed into us getting out into transition.”

The Millers advance to the state tournament at Linfield University in McMinnville this Thursday-Saturday. Springfield’s quarterfinal game is Thursday at 8:15 p.m. against No. 2 Crater – a team that’s beaten Springfield 59-49 and 58-56 already this season. The losses are Springfield’s only losses to Class 5A opponents in the past two seasons.

“Would I have liked to have seen them in the championship? Yeah. But we got to beat them some time – doesn’t matter if it’s a quarterfinal, semifinal, or in the championship. We’re gonna be ready. It should be a great game, but I think we’ll be ready,” Williamson said. “I don’t know if it’s so much a rivalry, it’s just we’re the two best teams in our league, and so we really appreciate the opportunity to play each other. It makes us better. We’re better for it, and I’m sure they’re better for it as well.”

Romero-Ah Sam echoed her coach’s sentiment about wanting to see Crater in the finals, but said the team is confident no matter what.

“We know how they play, and I don’t think they can beat us three times (in one season), so we’re gonna try our best,” she said.

Springfield’s been in the state tournament, and state championship game, the past two seasons. One title loss and one title win later, this team knows what it takes to make it to the finish line.

“It’s just three games now. You just gotta get three wins. Just get one win at a time, and when you win you advance. I feel good about where we’re at,” Williamson said. “Yeah, it’s hard to repeat, but lots of teams have done it. We’ll be ready, and we’ll give it our best shot on Thursday.”



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