Comet girls surge to 5A state tourney
CENTRAL POINT — Overpowering in the paint, aggressive on defense from one end of the court to the other and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from just inside halfcourt.
If you could dream up something positive to happen, the Crater girls basketball team provided it Friday night in the opening round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
And that was just in the first quarter.
Crater, ranked fifth in the 5A coaches poll and seeded fifth, eliminated all doubt whether it was headed for a fourth straight state tournament appearance by taking a 19-3 lead through one quarter of play against West Albany and never relenting en route to a 54-30 romp in the Comets’ gym.
“We just had to be the first ones to really come out hard and punch them first,” said Crater 6-foot-2 senior Averi Young, who had 10 points, six rebounds and three blocks, “and I think we really did that with the intensity and just our energy in the first quarter. We did what we needed to do on defense, we did what we needed to do on offense and we were talking and communicating the whole time, it was pretty good.”
Young and fellow senior post Kayana Woodard combined for 10 first-quarter points, junior Taryn Dance recorded three of her five steals and junior Teya Amidei electrified the crowd with her long-range heroics in a nearly perfect opening eight minutes of play for the Comets.
“From the start to Teya’s 3 at the buzzer, everything went our way,” said Crater head coach Scott Dippel. “They executed the game plan perfectly, both offensively and defensively.”
With the victory, Crater (22-3) advanced to a quarterfinal matchup against Midwestern League rival Churchill (22-4). The third-ranked Lancers, who are seeded No. 4, beat Central 48-38 on Friday and swept the Comets during the regular season with a pair of seven-point victories.
The Crater-Churchill quarterfinal will begin at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis.
“That was one my goals for this year, to make it back to state,” said Young. “I’ve been there all three years previously, and I was just really excited to come out tonight and play for my team and make it happen.”
Young and Woodard each scored a quick four points in the opening quarter, the former with a deft touch in the paint and the latter as a recipient of Crater’s press-breaking ways.
It was on the defensive end, however, that the Comets really set the standard.
With Dance and senior Presley Robison active at the top of the press and in the halfcourt set — and Young rejecting anyone who dare enter the paint — Crater was able to force six turnovers and add three steals to completely take West Albany (17-9) out of its rhythm.
“We were ready for the pressure but we just didn’t execute,” said Bulldogs head coach Shawn Stinson, whose team was seeded 12th but ranked No. 7. “We panicked a little bit.”
“Their intensity was over the top,” he added of the Comets. “We knew it was going to be like that coming in and I thought we were prepared but we just hit the panic button early.”
Dippel gave a lot of credit to Dance and Robison for forcing such erratic behavior by the Bulldogs.
“Taryn and Presley both just disrupt the ball,” said the Crater coach. “They got right in there and when (West Albany) picked the ball up, they made them turn and got them uncomfortable. I thought they just played fantastic.”
For all its struggles, West Albany was in reasonable position down 12-3 with 1 1/2 minutes to go in the first quarter, but Dance went to work with three straight steals and the Comets surged for seven unanswered points on baskets by Robison, junior Madison Dutkiewicz and Amidei.
Crater didn’t coast after that, building a 26-7 advantage early in the second quarter and leading 40-15 midway through the third.
“Once we started to expand that lead in the second and early third quarter,” said Dippel, “then it became about possessions and control, offensively and defensively. We shortened the game.”
What the Comets didn’t need to do, mind you, was shorten the rotation. Dippel was able to send waves of players at the Bulldogs throughout the contest, with little layoff between the starters and reserves.
“Our second string really came in with the same intensity and that really helped us, too,” said Young. “We definitely have a deep team so that’s good.”
Robison finished with nine points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals, sophomore McKenzie Hirsch had nine points, five rebounds and three steals and Dance had four points, four rebounds, five steals and three assists.
Also for the Comets, Woodard contributed eight points and three rebounds, Dutkiewicz had eight points, two rebounds and two blocks and Amidei chipped in with six points and three boards.
West Albany junior Carley Robb knocked down three of her team’s four 3-pointers to finish with nine points, and the Bulldogs got seven points apiece from Lily Ruiz and McKenzie Kosmicki.
WEST ALBANY (30): Strandy 2, Ruiz 7, Bailey 3, Robb 9, Ball 2, Creager 0, M. Kosmicki 7, K. Kosmicki 0. Totals: 8 10-14 30.
CRATER (54): Gugliotta 0, Bittle 0, Dance 4, Bowers 0, Hanson 0, Hirsch 9, Robison 9, Amidei 6, Waters 0, Dutkiewicz 8, Woodard 8, Young 10. Totals: 21 10-12 54.
West Albany310611— 30
3-point goals — West Albany 4 (Robb 3, Ruiz 1), Crater 2 (Amidei 1, Robison 1).
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry