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Sutherlin Three-Peats

 

Kayce Mock Hallie Wright DSC08053Sutherlin had to slug it out to the end against Cascade, but in the end, the Blue Bulldogs completed a 3-peat of OSAA Girls 4A Basketball Championships Saturday night at Liberty High School.

 

The 45-40 win over the Cougars also continued a run of 3 years of not losing a single game in state, and 5 consecutive years in the top 3 under Head Coach Josh Grotting.

 

The much anticipated showdown against the top rated Cougars, who also hadn't lost to a team from on the continent this season until Saturday night was also a much anticipated showdown between Sutherlin's senior leader Kayce Mock, above left, and Cascade's sophomore sensation Hallie Wright, and that didn't disappoint either.

 

Mock posted a double double of a game high 25 points and a game high 11 rebounds, while Wright posted team highs of 23 points and 7 rebounds.

 

The showdown of #2s was another matter though, as Sutherlin's Taylor Srticklin got off to a fast start, and wound up with 10 points and was just 1 rebound shy of her own double double, while Alyssa St. Peter was held to just 3 points and 4 rebounds.

 

 

"We felt we had to contain Wright and St. Peter," Grotting said, and while the Blue Bulldogs were only marginally successful in dealing with Wright, Stricklin was able to frustrate St. Peter inside and still defend her effectively on the perimeter.

 

Taylor Stricklin Alyssa St Peter DSC08048

 

On the offensive end, Stricklin was able to create some free throw opportunities, and convert 6 out of 8 of them.

 

That was part of a larger picture that ultimately decided the game, as Sutherlin shot 65% from the line, while Cascade struggled, connecting on only 48%.

 

“All year, the free throws,” Casccade coach Mark Stevens said. “It’s been a problem all year. Tonight the margin of error was smaller and that statistic became bigger.”

 

The game more closely resembled either a football game, or a parking lot brawl, than basketball, but neither team minded that, at least in general, if not on a play by play basis.

 

“I have no problem with it,” Stevens said. “They’re physical, too. That’s part of the reason why we get here a little bit more than other teams, probably. And (Sutherlin coach Grotting) gets here a little more than other teams because his kids are tough too."

 

The last thing Sutherlin wanted was a lot of whistles, and foul trouble as well. Playing without both Taylor Klein, and then Megan Bradley, who suffered a wrist injury, the Blue Bulldogs went the distance with just 6 players, and 4 of them played tip to final buzzer without a break.

 

That challenge highlighted another couple of factors about the basketbrawl that favored Sutherlin.

 

Cascade looked a little tired at times, and one way that plays out is in missed free throws. At the same time, Sutherlin's play looked like a game plan hatched in a weight room, not on the practice floor.

 

"We don't actually have much (of a weight room)," Grotting said, "but these girls put the work in. They have for years. Some of them spent 3 years as JVs, and never wavered."

 

It allowed the Blue Bulldogs to withstand the first half runs that saw the Cougars take a 24-21 halftime lead, and turn the tables with a 14-6 third quarter.

 

"With the injuries, we were 'Happy to be here', but we said 'Let's get to the 4th quarter, and see what we could do at the end". There's a lot of heart in those kids of ours," Grotting said.

 

The other factor was Mock's ability to pick her battles, sometimes deferring against Wright, and sometimes making her move as a second play, appearing out of nowhere after bodies went flying.

 

"What you saw tonight was Kayce's incredible basketball IQ," Grotting said. "I'll never be so fortunate as to coach another player like her again. We had discussed that we didn't want Kayce to foul Wright (who still found her way to the line 16 times) once she got down low. We knew we had to go all night without any subs down there, and we felt we had a better chance in a 2 or 4 point game with Kayce in the game than up 6 without her."

 

After all the noise, and there was plenty, it still came down to the last couple of minutes, with the game tied at 40 apiece, after a 3 point play by Wright.

 

Sutherlin's Harlee Baker sank 2 free throws, and Cascade turned the ball over on their last 3 possessions. The decisive one, when the Cougars could have tied or taken the lead in the final seconds, didn't even occur as a result of a mugging.

 

It was Sutherlin's 4th title under Grotting, and the 4th title game appearance in the last 5 years, with a loss in the 2012 title game and another in the 2013 semi-finals the only imperfections in the last half-decade.

 

Yet it was the least likely of the run. After going unbeaten the last 2 years, Sutherlin was only the 7 seed in this season's post-season, a product of the distortion of the OSAA ranking system that playing in the weakest league in the state produced.

 

"I guess it was good to be the best 7 seed ever," Grotting said.

 

Meanwhile, it was Cascade's 7th trip to the finals, 5 coming under Stevens. It wound up the 5th time the Cougars have had to settle for second though.

 

With Cascade returning multiple underclassmen, not just Wright, and never ending roster turnover to contend with, Grotting said it could be the Cougars cutting down nets in the next year or two. But someone in this state will have to beat the Blue Bulldogs first.

 

Sutherlin Championship 3 Peat DSC08076

 

 

(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)

 

 

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