A chance to make it to the 16-team OSAA Basketball State Championships pool was on the line for the HRV girls basketball team Tuesday night, Feb. 27, in Milwaukie.
In their first matchup earlier in the season, HRV beat Milwaukie by a slim margin, winning by a final score of 35-34.
In their second match, the Eagles and Mustangs would go down to the wire once again.
The Eagles fell to the Mustangs early on, but would claw their way back to cut a third quarter double-digit lead to single-digits in the final quarter.
However, the Mustangs were able to withstand the Eagles’ rally and HRV would be eliminated from playoff contention, losing by a final score of 35-33.
“While the game was close in the end (the closest game out of all the girls play-in games across the state), I think we really feel like that was one we should have had,” said head coach Donnie Herneisen. “While Milwaukie deserves all the credit for the win, I don’t think any of us feel like we played a great game. It’s that nagging feeling like we really shouldn’t be done yet. We showed our capability in the fourth quarter, but it was just too little, too late.”
Although the girls fought their way back into the game at the very end, the real story was in the first three quarters.
“We did not shoot the ball well at all, lots of air balls and missed layup heading into the fourth,” said Herneisen. “When you get to post-season play, you just can’t perform like we did and expect to get a win.”
After one quarter of play, the Eagles were down 10-8, and this performance in the opening quarter would continue for HRV in the following two.
Despite holding the Mustangs to 20 points combined in the second and third quarter, HRV would only score 13.
Late in the third HRV was down 30-16 “before we finally woke up,” said Herneisen.
“We found a sense of urgency in trying to score late in the third,” said Herneisen. “If we had found that earlier, we might have managed to escape with a win.”
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Eagles had cut a double-digit Mustang lead to nine, 30-21.
HRV opened the fourth connecting on opportunities at the bucket and were putting greater defensive pressure on Milwaukie than in the first three quarters.
“We knew from playing them before that we could hold them to few points late in the game, and we did just that,” said Herneisen.
The Eagles held Milwaukie to only five points in the fourth quarter; the Mustangs had scored 10 points in each quarter heading into the fourth.
From late in the third to the final couple minutes of the game, HRV went on a 15-2 run to cut Milwaukie’s lead to 32-31.
“We had three straight possessions to score and take the lead. Unfortunately, our shooting dried up and we could only manage one more bucket, a put-back from Barrett Ihde with 18 seconds to go,” said Herneisen. “We had to foul, and they made shots. Trailing 35-33 with 9 seconds to go, we went the length of the court, and Haylee Baker had a decent look at a three to win the game, but it was just short. Season over.”
With the 35-33 loss to Milwaukie in Tuesday’s play-in game, HRV ended its season with a 10-14 record and ranked 20 out of 33 teams in 5A.
Last year, the girls were 6-14 and finished 30 in the state. And two years before that, HRV had only won three and five games, respectively, and ranked 31 in the state.
“We’re moving forward as a program, and the process is working,” said Herneisen. “Beyond the win/loss record, I think we are also seeing improvement in the confidence levels in our girls. There is a belief that we are a capable of competing, which I’m not sure was really present before.”
HRV statistic leaders against Milwaukie: Junior guard Baker led the team in scoring and steals with 10 points and two steals. Senior forward Lauren Orr was the Eagles’ second leading scorer with nine points and she led the team in rebounds with 11, including seven offensive boards. Ashlynn Dawson, sophomore guard, had six points to round out the top-three scorers for the Eagles and she also added six rebounds.
“A loss like this one hurts, as a we know we should’ve been better,” said Herneisen.
“However, we need to keep the big picture at the forefront. These girls moved the bar up this year and set a new standard. Moving into a new league next year, we need to build on our confidence and our skillset. Our returning players have to find a way to replace the holes left by our seniors Orr and McNerney, and we need younger players to step it up. I’m looking for that competitive fire we saw in the fourth quarter against Milwaukie to push us through the summer and fall workouts, and hopefully get some basketball interest from the community and younger players.”