Sports Zone, Springfield

‘Romero-Ah Sam Era’ ends at state

McMINNVILLE – It wasn’t the dream return to the state tournament that the Springfield girls basketball team was hoping for – but don’t mistake the failed title defense for a failed season. After falling to Midwestern League rival and second-ranked Crater in the quarterfinals, the Millers battled their way through the consolation bracket to earn fourth in the state one year after winning the title.

“Fourth place is not what we came here for, but I think we played well. I think Crater and us, we kind of felt like we were two of the top teams,” Springfield coach Joe Williamson said. “So when we didn’t win that game, all we could do was come out and win our next two. The highest we could get was fourth place, so we did the most we could do under the circumstances.”

The 7th-seeded Millers fell to Crater twice in the regular season, but went into the quarterfinal rematch confident that the third time would be the charm. The Millers struggled, though, and went into the half down 11. Despite cutting the lead to single digits after the third quarter, Springfield couldn’t build enough offense to mount a comeback and lost 55-39.

Danaeja Romero-Ah Sam was bottled up in a loss to Crater last Thursday; she helped lead the Millers through the consolation bracket to a fourth-place finish.

Oftentimes when a team with title aspirations falls in the quarters, they fall flat in the consolation bracket due to feeling like they have nothing to play for. That was the exact case for Springfield against No. 3 Corvallis in the consolation semis as the Millers scored only 20 first-half points and went into the locker room down by 15.

“When we lost (to Crater), it kind of threw us off a little bit, especially during the Corvallis game,” Springfield senior Danaeja Romero-Ah Sam said. “But us seniors gave a talk to the team and basically said we’re not gonna lose this way, and end the tournament this way. We ended up fighting back, and we just were not losing, because that would have been a bad way to end it.”

The Millers scored 51 points in the second half to win 71-64 over Corvallis. Romero-Ah Sam finished the game with 27 points and 5 assists.

Bouncing back

“We don’t want our program to be known as one who – at any point, whether or not you have something to play for – ever plays the way we played in that first half,” Williamson said. “I thought we played like we didn’t have anything to play for. And then we had a pretty good talk at halftime. The coaches had some things to say, and we had some seniors step up and say a few words about how they didn’t want to go out that way.”

In the consolation finals, Springfield led No. 8 Mountain View by 1 at halftime. The second half was all Springfield once again as the team outscored Mountain View 46-28 to win 72-53 and earn a 4th-place finish. Junior Diamond Wright led the way with 30 points and 9 rebounds, and Romero-Ah Sam recorded 19 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds in her final game. Wright and Romero-Ah Sam both earned 1st-team all-tournament honors.

The Springfield Millers with their fourth-place trophy after beating Mountain View 72-53 in the consolation finals.

The Millers’ fourth-place finish ended a tumultuous season, filled with challenges.  JB Robinson, a returning 2nd-team all-state player, transferred to the state of Georgia early in the season; junior post player Ryan Marshall suffered a season-ending knee injury in December; and the Millers were dealing with multiple ailments heading into the state tournament.

Hurdles all season

“Nobody knew – because we didn’t want to let it out of the bag – but we were playing hurt. Danaeja didn’t practice all last week. She was in a boot, and we didn’t know if she was going to play the tournament, but she just gutted it out,” Williamson said. “After games, she could hardly walk. And Kayla Morris, same thing; she had back problems and could barely walk. I don’t even know how she went out and played, but she’s a senior and just said, ‘I gotta play.’

“Then Diamond had leg problems. I’m just proud of how they persevered through a lot of adversity and injury.”

The state tournament marked the end of Romero-Ah Sam’s prep career, and the end of a remarkable post-Covid three-season run. As she awaits this season’s awards, Romero-Ah Sam accomplished the following during her final three seasons: 

• Was named Midwestern League player of the year three times

• State player of the year twice 

• Made two 1st-team all-state teams 

• Three 1st-team all-tournament honors 

During those seasons, the Springfield Millers went 21-8 and lost in the state title game, finished 24-5 and won the state title, and went 20-9 en route to a 4th-place finish. 

“It took a lot of trial and error to get here. Freshman year we probably wouldn’t have made the tournament if it was around, but then sophomore year I helped take my team to state,” Romero-Ah Sam said. “It just shows all the hard work that I put in, and then junior year we won the championship. Even though we didn’t get the outcome that we wanted this year, it’s okay, because it’s just part of my story.”



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