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Comets advance to state title tilt

PORTLAND -- It was just three seasons ago that the Crater High girls basketball team played Oregon City at home and got the usual treatment from the Pioneers.

The harsh reality of playing Oregon City exposed the young Comets to what it takes to play with the big girls in Oregon: lots of defense, lots of tenacity and lots of work.

Since that meeting, the Comets have come a long way. Tonight they play Oregon City for the Class 4A state championship. Sixth-ranked Crater (24-2) earned its spot in the 8 p.m. final at the Chiles Center with a 40-27 triumph over third-ranked Crescent Valley before a crowd of 5,013.

Ever since I played summer ball for (Oregon City coaches) Carl (Tinsley) and Brad (Smith) I've thought, maybe someday, said four-year starter Caryn Ross. It's just been wonderful. It's great.

Crater is the first Southern Oregon Conference team to play for a state championship.

During this game, I felt like we were going to win and we weren't going to give up, said senior forward Teri Schneider. The energy kept coming and coming -- which means we have to get a lot of sleep tonight so we can have a lot of extra energy for Oregon City.

No. 2 Oregon City (23-4) has won four straight state championships and its four losses came with 6-foot-4 center Michelle Mitchell sidelined with a knee injury. She was icing her knee in the fourth quarter after the Pioneers' 56-36 semifinal triumph over No. 4 Jesuit Friday.

Fourth-year Crater coach David Heard has considered the possibility of playing Oregon City for a long time. He was beaming ear-to-ear as he discussed the reality of playing for a state championship.

We've done something that's never been done before, Heard said. It's a big step not just for our program, but for the whole of Southern Oregon. Four years ago, we dreamed about just being here. The last couple of years we've dreamed about the championship.

I go to sleep dreaming about beating Oregon City.

Crater stayed true to form in the semifinals, playing suffocating defense. After blanketing the tournament's scoring co-leader, Cheryl Sorenson of Clackamas on Thursday, the Comets snuffed Crescent Valley's long-range bombers. Meg LaBlanc, Brooklynn Lorenzen and Carrie Buckner were a combined 2-of-16 from 3-point range. The Raiders were 3-of-21 overall from beyond the arc.

We covered the whole 3-point area tonight, getting a hand up on all the shooters and not letting them penetrate, said senior point guard Cherrith Wiersma, who scored eight points, grabbed six rebounds, dished out five assists and had two steals. That's just what we wanted.

Crater held Crescent Valley to 11 field goals, just as it did Centennial in its opener. Although the Comets were also limited to 11 field goals, they converted 16 of 23 free throws.

Crater led 8-7 after one period and 21-11 before Lorenzen hit a trey at the horn to pull Crescent Valley to within 21-14 at the half. Katie Cooper started the third period with a putback for the Raiders.

But Crater outscored Crescent Valley 9-3 the rest of the period to take a 30-19 lead on freshman Jody McLeod's two free throws at the end of the third quarter.

The Comets continued to play tenacious defense in the final eight minutes, while patiently working the clock. They converted 6 of 9 free throws to salt the contest away.

We were expecting more from them, Schneider said. Our expectations have been higher than the other teams. It just goes to show we've possibly been the first or second contenders in the state. All that matters now is that we keep playing defense and keep our heads.

The loss snapped the Raiders' 17-game winning streak and sent the Valley League champions into a third-place match-up against Jesuit.

They're a great team, Crescent Valley coach Craig Ellingson said. I have no shame in losing to Crater, that's for sure. It isn't like we lost to a bad team. They have a legitimate shot.

CRESCENT VALLEY (27) -- Cooper 4, Kohler 2, LeBlanc 10, Lorenzen 4, Buckner 4, Roskowski 0, Hoffman 0, Turnbull 3, Dengler 0, Warnke 0, Johnson 0, Myhre 0. Totals: 11-46 2-5 27.

CRATER (40) -- Ross 9, Schneider 4, Wiley 2, Che. Wiersma 8, Cha. Wiesma 11, Gentile 0, Dunlap 0, Robbins 0, McLeod 6. Totals: 11-43 16-23 40.

Crescent Valley7 7 5 8 -- 27

Crater8 13 9 10 -- 40

3-point goals -- Crescent Valley 3-21 (LeBlanc 1, Lorenzen 1, Turnbull 1), Crater 2-13 (Schneider 1, Che. Wiersma 1). Rebounds -- Crescent Valley 28 (LeBlanc 6), Crater 44 (Ross 7, Schneider 7, Wiley 7).