After a narrow loss in their first meeting of the season, the sixth-ranked North Douglas girls’ basketball team was looking forward to a rematch with third-ranked Perrydale in the 1A state quarterfinals. 32 minutes of basketball later, the Pirates had made it abundantly clear who the better overall team was.
The Warriors (24-5 overall, 11-0 league) made the long trek to Baker, Ore. last Wed., Mar. 4 as one of the final eight teams remaining in the OSAA 1A classification. Perrydale — who defeated North Douglas 44-40 in their Jan. 10 matchup in Drain — proved too much for the Warriors to handle in a convincing 51-34 victory.
The Warriors were eliminated from championship contention and consequently lost to eighth-ranked Mohawk (24-6, 14-0) in double overtime in the consolation semifinals. Perrydale went on to lose to St. Paul in the semifinals before defeating Joseph 56-39 in the third-place game.
“The bottom line is we were scared,” said North Douglas head coach Jody Cyr. “I don’t exactly know why, but we played scared. It was just an ugly, ugly basketball game.”
That ugliness mostly came in the form of turnovers as Perrydale pressed the Warriors and forced 20 turnovers in the first half and a whopping 36 throughout the entire game. Despite an inability to consistently protect the ball, the Warriors were down only two at halftime.
“At that point I was thinking, ‘Ok, we had 20 turnovers in the first half and it’s just a two-point game. We can easily clean this up and get a win,’ but we didn’t,” said Cyr. “Then they started shooting the ball well in the third quarter and it just got out of reach.”
Adding to the sting of lost possessions, the Pirates turned to their sharpshooting senior twin sisters, Sydney and Kenzy Lawrence, whose scoring abilities allowed Perrydale to pull away in the second half and prove to those in attendance that there are few teams better in the state of Oregon.
“Perrydale is clearly the third-best team in the state and that’s a fact,” said Cyr. “The one thing I came away from that tournament realizing is that every team there - first of all, they’re all good - they each have a person they can go to at any time, whether it’s to calm things down or get a good shot.”
Despite North Douglas’ egalitarian playstyle being one of the reasons they made it this far, it was ultimately a facet that spelled disaster come playoff time, where opposing teams step up their defensive intensity and turn to the stars on their roster to provide reliable offensive output.
Nonetheless, Nicki Derrick — one of the Warriors’ senior leaders — did her best to provide the punch necessary to compete, averaging 17 points per game in North Douglas’ two tournament contests and earning a spot on the all-tournament second team.
The Warriors had a dominant regular and league season and achieved their biggest goal of making it to Baker and the state quarterfinals. But, once the field has been pared down to the final eight, the game becomes a different beast, particularly when the tournament is held in such a far-flung location for a team west of the Cascades.
“You get to Baker and it’s a whole different animal,” said Cyr. “You’ve driven nine hours, you’re eating out, you’re sleeping in a hotel bed, you’re up early and then when you get on the court it’s just a completely different stage. It’s a packed house and your opponent is going to be very good. You don’t get an opportunity to take a game off or not be consistent and do things perfect, otherwise you get beat. And that’s what happened.”
The team will graduate five seniors this year — Derrick, Rilie-Jo Olds, Bailey Holcomb, Natalie Draeger and Sofia Alcantar — which will naturally be a challenge for the Warriors in the 2020-21 season, but Cyr’s first year coaching at the high school level couldn’t have been much more successful, going undefeated in league, earning a top-10 ranking and making an appearance at state. Ask him, however, and there’s still plenty of work to be done.
“I learned a good deal [my first year], more so at Baker,” Cyr said. “Some of those teams were doing things very differently, but it was needed at that level ... It put a new focus on where we need to be by that time next year.”
The Warriors will return a young, but talented roster next season and, even though they didn’t have the postseason success they craved, the experience of attending the state tournament in itself will be invaluable for North Douglas’ returning players as they prepare, sooner rather than later, for 2021.
“Championships are not won between November and March,” Cyr added. “They’re won between March and November, so let’s meet and get a plan for that timespan.”