A mantra the Creswell girls basketball team adopted in the regular season was ‘Bulldogs not underdogs’, meaning the girls expect to perform well in the big moments and not see themselves as underdogs.
Despite facing an uphill battle with three starters fouling out in the second half and overtime against Douglas, the Bulldogs never counted themselves out and were able to find a way to win in a riveting contest to punch their ticket to the final state site in Coos Bay beating Douglas 50-46 in overtime.
“We were on cloud nine, to be honest,” said Head Coach Tyler Hollingsworth. “I’m super proud and happy for these girls. I mean, the girls were jacked up in the locker room. It was a crazy, and an unreal moment, one of my favorite moments so far of coaching with the girls.”
Emme Whitson had another exemplary performance finishing with a near triple-double scoring 24 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and totaling 9 steals. Dakota Carson (13 points) and Samairah Quinones (10) each topped double-digit points on the night. Douglas’ Male’ata Polamalu led the Trojans with 18 points.
“It made the win even better coming from behind,” said Senior guard Emme Whitson. “We also never normally win close games let alone on the road. And the crowd played a huge factor as well, that was the loudest gym I’ve ever played in. To me, it’s so fun that I get to go to Coos Bay with this team for my senior year because it shows how hard we have worked and that we finally made it.”
In a low-scoring first quarter, Douglas grabbed the lead first and held it going into the second quarter at 9-6. The Trojans got their highest lead to seven with over a minute to go in the second period, but the Bulldogs responded right back after Whitson hit a three-pointer. That was soon followed by four more points in the final ten seconds of the half with Whitson scoring and Carson’s buzzer-beating lay-in off a steal to close the quarter and the score being tied up at 22 apiece.
“Finishing that half strong, you could argue, is one of the reasons why we win that game,” said Hollingsworth. “I think that was huge for us because our halftime is a different feeling. We’re going in like look where we’re at, we’re good.”
The second half was emblematic of the first after neither team could gain more than an inch against the other but this time Creswell held the lead at the end of the third quarter 29-28.
In the middle of the fourth quarter, Whitson accidentally collided with a teammate that knocked her down and injured her.
A mere 30 seconds had passed before Whitson checked back into the game and she wasted no time to get back in the flow of the game after what looked like a painful collision. She scored on the next two Creswell possessions to give her team a 34-32 advantage with a little over five minutes remaining. About a minute later Quinones was called for her fifth personal foul forcing her to miss the remainder of the contest with the game still very much in the air.
Both teams traded shot for shot down the final three and a half minutes of the contest, but with less than a minute to go Douglas held a 42-40 lead with possession of the ball.
The Trojans were trying to drain time off the clock by passing the ball around the perimeter to each other. Whitson jumped into the passing lane and picked off a pass then broke down to the other end scoring the game-tying layup with only a little more than 10 seconds remaining on the game clock.
Douglas was called for a turnover following a timeout, but Creswell wasn’t able to get a clean look at the hoop as the buzzer sounded signifying overtime.
“You know we found a way to claw back,” said Hollingsworth. “And that steal by Emme was probably one of the biggest plays I’ve ever seen. That was just a big-time play. I mean to do that in that moment was huge.”
In the first two minutes of overtime, Lauren Bailey and Karinna Leonard were both lost for the rest of the evening after they each picked up their fifth personal foul. With just over two minutes remaining Whitson drove to the hoop and scored giving Creswell their first lead of overtime 46-45. Shortly thereafter a Douglas player tried to save the ball from going out of bounds on the Creswell end of the court, the ball found the hands of Carson who put the ball back in for another Bulldog score and Creswell’s lead was up to four.
In the final seconds of the game, Kendyl Whitson made one free throw to hold Creswell’s lead at 49-46 that was then followed by a Douglas turnover. Creswell was back at the free throw line this time only needing one make from Carson to seemingly clinch the game with only 10 seconds left.
Carson made the one they needed, earning a roar from the visiting Creswell fans who traveled down to Douglas as the Bulldogs were ahead 50-46. The final seconds ticked off the clock and as the final buzzer went off a euphoric moment was felt through all Bulldog faithful with Creswell now advancing to the next round.
After their gritty performance against Douglas the Bulldogs will now have to shift their focus to their next opponent in the quarterfinals Oregon Episcopal who upset the number one seed Willamina on the same night. Creswell will play the Aardvark’s on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at Marshfield High School.