In the previous two matchups between the Creswell girls basketball team and Harrisburg Eagles, the first team to 50 points ended up winning the game. The first round went to Harrisburg 51-49, the second round went to Creswell 50-44, and in the third meeting with much more on the line ahead of the state playoffs both team’s defensive intensity would ratchet up another level.
In a low scoring back and forth battle all night, Creswell’s Samairah Quinones’ pair of made free throws with less than a second left in the game lifted the Bulldogs to a 30-28 win over Harrisburg cementing their position in the postseason and standing alone at second place in the Mountain Valley Conference.
“I thought we did a really good job defensively,” said Head Coach Tyler Hollingsworth. “They (Harrisburg) made only one basket in the fourth quarter. I think it gives them more belief that they belong, and it helps to keep that momentum going.”
Senior Emme Whitson was the lone Creswell player to touch double-digit points with 11, followed by Kendyl Whitson and Lauren Bailey each with 6 points. But the major difference in the game was Creswell’s excellent free throw shooting as they only missed one on the entire evening, finishing with a stellar 92 percent as a team.
Kendyl and Emme Whitson scored all of Creswell’s points in the opening period as the Bulldogs clammed onto a 7-4 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Creswell’s only points in the early part of the second quarter came off of free throws, Emma Manness, Quinones and Whitson all knocked down their foul shots to hold the Bulldog lead at 14-9 with three minutes remaining until halftime. Harrisburg’s Emmalee Smathers got an offensive rebound then put it back for a bucket before marking the last points of the half, with Creswell still holding a slim lead 16-13.
Harrisburg found new life in the second half starting the third quarter on a 6-0 run to grab their first lead of the game. Emme Whitson picked up her fourth foul in the third quarter forcing her to sit the rest of the way.
Harrisburg knocked down a three-pointer and made a pair of free throws to stretch their lead to five at the end of the quarter 24-19.
After being outscored 11-3 in the previous quarter, the Bulldogs were able to respond in the final quarter to get back in it. Bailey’s made three-point shot in the fourth quarter was the first one she had made all season, which came at the most opportune time to pull Creswell back within three.
“I love the fact that she shot it without even thinking about it,” said Hollingsworth. “She’s been working really hard and doing a good job and in the last week and a half she’s started to shoot threes.”
Following some time on the bench due to foul trouble, Emme Whitson returned to tie the game at 28 with a tough left-handed layin and 1:37 remaining in the game. Both defenses held the opposing offenses in check in the final minute until Creswell’s final possession when Quinones was fouled on a shot attempt.
With less than a second remaining on the game clock (0.7) Quinones stood at the line unphased by the big moment and proceeded to make her pair of free throws giving Creswell the edge 30-28. Harrisburg’s near full-court heave was unsuccessful and the Bulldogs came away with the win.
“I said to the girls, ‘Don’t be satisfied,’” said Hollingsworth. “We were 4-7 going into league and we essentially went 7-2 in the league so that’s a good turnaround. But we didn’t get here just to get in or just to lose, we got in here to go on to win. So our next goal is to now make it to Coos Bay.”
Now only needing one win to advance to the final site in Coos Bay, the Bulldogs will return to the postseason for the first time since the 2017-18 season. And will start their tournament play with a rematch against Douglas who Creswell played to start this season. The game will be played next Saturday, Feb. 26 at Douglas high school with the start time scheduled for 6 p.m.
11 points, 3 rebounds
6 points, 7 rebounds
6 points, 2 rebounds