Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
In the same moment, St. Mary's plans to play for the state championship and a buzzer-beating shot by Nestucca took the same path: They both fell through.
The Bobcats' Kelsea Hurliman made a second-chance putback as time expired to give Nestucca a 47-46 come-from-behind victory over St. Mary's Friday in the Class 2A state tournament semifinals at the Pendleton Convention Center.
The loss snapped the fifth-ranked Crusaders' 17-game winning streak and sends St. Mary's into the third-place game at 1:30 p.m. today against Enterprise, a 54-38 loser to Santiam. Nestucca and Santiam meet at 6:30 p.m. for the championship.
Seventh-ranked Nestucca (21-5) trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half and was behind 46-43 with 4.5 seconds to play.
But Emily Pieren was fouled by the Crusaders' Mackenzie Krieser on a 3-point attempt and went to the free-throw line for three shots. Pieren was already 5-for-5 at the line and made her first two to pull the Bobcats within 46-45.
She missed her third, however, but got the rebound and shot again. That missed, and Hurliman scooped up the carom and frantically sank the game winner as the horn sounded, leaving her teammates delirious and the St. Mary's players awash in disbelief.
"It's one of those games that someone has to lose," said St. Mary's coach Tim Pflug, "but you hate to see someone lose. I thought both teams played well enough to win. But they wanted it just a bit more. And that's the way it ended up."
Domonique Valdez had given fifth-ranked St. Mary's (20-5) its three-point lead with a basket off a feed from her sister Veronica, with 22 seconds to play.
It seemed to right the ship, for St. Mary's had been in control much of the contest.
With six players contributing points, it outscored Nestucca 17-10 in the second quarter to take a 29-21 halftime lead.
A Kylie Adderson putback with 2:32 showing in the third quarter bumped the advantage to 37-25.
"When we built that big lead tonight, we knew they weren't going to quit," said Pflug. "We saw that last night against Western Mennonite. They played their hearts out, and if Kelsea Hurliman is not player of the state, then I don't know who is."
Indeed, a 15-3 run by the Bobcats over the next eight minutes made it 40-40 with 2:45 remaining. Hurliman, who paced all scorers with 19, had seven during the run.
Nestucca went ahead 43-41 on two free throws by Pieren, but a free throw by Adderson and a putback when she missed the next one by Krieser gave St. Mary's a 44-43 edge. Then came Domonique Valdez's basket and the wild finish.
"Last year, we went two and out and lost by two and lost by four," said Pflug. "This year, we beat a very athletic De La Salle team and then played Nestucca tough and lose at the buzzer. I can say one thing: I told the girls, win or lose, have no regrets. In my life, that's all I've regretted is not giving it my best shot. They gave it their best tonight, and they'll recover from this."
Adderson scored nine for St. Mary's and was named the team's player of the game. Veronica Valdez scored seven and three players tallied six, including Abby Steinsiek, whose two 3-pointers in the first quarter kick-started her team.
Veronica Valdez added nine rebounds.
ST. MARY'S (20-5)
Adderson 3-7 3-6 9, V. Valdez 1-10 5-6 7, Steinsiek 2-4 0-0 6, Krieser 3-5 0-0 6, Bates 3-4 0-0 6, D. Valdez 2-6 0-0 5, Street 2-5 0-0 4, Gross 1-3 1-2 3. Totals: 17-44 9-14 46.
Hurliman 8-20 2-2 19, E. Pieren 3-9 7-9 13, Windle 3-7 0-2 6, Heathershaw 2-4 1-3 5, Ramiskey 1-2 0-0 2, S. Pieren 0-2 2-4 2, Boisa 0-0 0-0 0, Chatelain 0-0 0-0 0, Green, Hannah 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-44 12-20 47.
St Mary's 12 17 10 7 — 46
Nestucca 11 10 11 15 — 47
3-point goals — St Mary's 3-14 (Steinsiek 2-4, D. Valdez 1-5, Krieser 0-1, V. Valdez 0-4), Nestucca 1-8 (Hurliman 1-5, Pieren 0-3). Fouled out — Heathershaw. Rebounds — St. Mary's 31 (Valdez 9), Nestucca 28 (E. Pieren 6, S. Pieren 6). Assists — St Mary's 13, (Street 4), Nestucca 5 (Hurliman 4). Total fouls — St. Mary's 19, Nestucca 12.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail email@example.com