When asked about their goals before the start of the 2019-20 season, it was a uniform refrain from the members of the North Douglas girls’ basketball team: “Get to Baker.”
On Friday, Feb. 28 that goal became reality when the sixth-ranked Warriors (11-0 league, 23-3 overall) took down visiting 14th-ranked Powder Valley (9-2, 15-11) by a final score of 34-23 in the first round of the OSAA 1A state playoffs.
With the win, North Douglas punched their ticket to the state quarterfinals, to be held this weekend in Baker, Ore., where they will play third-ranked Perrydale in a rematch from an earlier game this season. While the Pirates won that game 44-40, Warriors’ head coach Jody Cyr is looking forward to the prospect of getting another shot at one of the top teams in the state.
“I’m super excited about that,” Cyr said. “I’ve talked to their coach a lot this year and developed a pretty good relationship with him and it’s kinda what we both wanted … but we shall see.”
Before round two against Perrydale was set, however, the Warriors first needed to get through a sizable obstacle in Powder Valley, the runners-up in last year’s state championship game.
The Badgers boast a roster of five players over 5 feet 10 inches tall with a shooting prowess that North Douglas had trouble matching. Early, costly turnovers by the Warriors compounded and helped Powder Valley jump out to an 11-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“The problem with [Powder Valley] was they were big enough to pass out of our traps,” Cyr said. No worry, as dealing with a size disadvantage is nothing new for North Douglas. So, the team refocused on what got them this far: timely, in-game adjustments and full-court defensive intensity.
Powder Valley didn’t know it yet, but by the time the second half began, North Douglas already had the upper hand and immediately clicked into a higher gear.
“It was needed (improvement),” Cyr said after the game, “but I felt like we definitely never gave up and gave them fits where they didn’t want it. I was proud of the girls, especially Sofia [Alcantar]. She had a heck of a good game.”
Between Nicki Derrick - who pounded the paint, putting Powder Valley post players in foul trouble all game - and Alcantar, the Warriors turned the game decidedly in their favor in the third quarter.
“I talk a lot to Nicki just one-on-one,” Cyr said. “I don’t think there’s anyone in our conference that can keep Nicki from getting to the basket. She’s hard to stop. She’s so much deceivingly faster than people give her credit for. I feel like we can spread the floor any time she can get to the basket and … it worked out pretty well.”
The Warriors held a 19-15 lead midway through the third quarter when the following sequence occurred: Alcantar stole the ball from the Badgers near halfcourt, drove to the hoop and got the layup and the foul. Alcantar stole the ball again on the next play and passed to junior Natalie Thompson who finished with a layup of her own. In a matter of less than a minute, a four-point lead became nine and North Douglas never looked back. After allowing 11 points to Powder Valley in the first quarter, they gave up just 12 in the remaining three.
“I felt like [Alcantar] turned the game single-handedly in the third quarter,” Cyr said. “She didn’t let them do anything they wanted to do, which is what I love. That’s the intent of playing in-your-face defense.”
Ultimately, it was a combination of executing the same things that earned the Warriors an undefeated league record and an as-yet-unseen confidence and smoothness that helped earn them a return to Baker after a two-year hiatus.
“Another key, and I was proud of the girls because we talked about it a lot at halftime and prior to the game, was we talked about being intentional,” Cyr added. “Like, knowing the situation, knowing the clock, just being smart basketball players.”
With Derrick playing more aggressively than ever, Alcantar feasting on the defensive end and an egalitarian roster of starters and bench players who are all capable of contributing, the team sure looked the part of a smart, intentional group.
It’s a recipe for a team with a high ceiling and the potential for a deep playoff run, but Cyr knows there’s still work to be done and a bevy of talented teams waiting for them east of the Cascades.
“We’ll get back to work tomorrow and Monday, then head to Baker.”
“Get to Baker” was the goal. Now, the girls are on their way, but when you compile a league and overall record like the Warriors, take down last year’s second place team and look better than ever doing it? Well, goals can change.