Lady Sailors nab playoff spot


It was a historic evening for the Mapleton girls basketball team, which hosted McKenzie on Thursday night

MHS girls d McKenzie: 31-7

Feb. 8, 2020 — It was a historic evening for the Mapleton girls basketball team, which hosted McKenzie on Thursday night in a 31-7 win that opened with a first-quarter 7-0 Sailors lead.

It was a lead the Sailors never relinquished.

For the first time since at least 2015, the Sailors won three games in a row. The previous record was two games, set in January 2016, when the girls team won back-to-back games against Eddyville Charter and Mohawk.

The Sailors latest winning streak started with McKenzie on Feb. 1, followed by a win over Crow on Feb. 4, then McKenzie again last Thursday.

In addition to the three-game win streak, the season also marks the first time in more than five years that the team has won five games in a season; the previous record was three wins during the 2015-16 season, which was followed by two seasons where the Lady Sailors didn’t win a single game.

And there was one more historic moment on Thursday.

“We haven’t gone to the playoffs,” coach Mellissa Duffy said. “That was our goal. Once we hit those first two wins, we tried to make the playoffs. So, as it looks right now, we’ve accomplished that goal.”

The Mapleton girls’ basketball team is going to the playoffs?

“Yes,” Duffy said.

Seriously?

“Yes!” Duffy yelled with a laugh. “We’re fifth or sixth, we keep flip flopping with Alsea. If our games go as we would like, then next week…”

Duffy explained that there were two teams left for the Mapleton girls to play, Alsea and Siletz Valley.

“Those are going to be tough games,” Duffy said. “But if we can at least beat Alsea, that means we would probably play them at home for playoffs. We’ve already beat them once. If we beat them a second time — and our records are tied — then we play here because we took the series.”

When asked how it felt to go to the playoffs for the first time in over half a decade, Duffy again yelled with a laugh, “Great!”

“I don’t want to be braggadocious because it usually bites you in the butt when you do that,” she said. “So, we’ve been kind of trying to keep the excitement under wraps most of the season. It just feels really good. I know the girls are really excited and happy about it. So, we’re just going to keep working for the next game.”

As to why the team went from 10 straight losses in the beginning of the season to a post season, Duffy said it had to do with defense, conditioning and spirit.

“We’ve been working really hard on defense,” she said. “Coach Gray and I were talking before the game, and it just seemed like a few things we’ve been waiting to click have clicked. You see flashes of it in a game here or there. They’re starting to see things on the court without us having to tell them.

“They’re a scrappy bunch of girls. It’s going to be an interesting postseason.”

Duffy paused, then said laughing, “We’re going to the postseason!”

Duffy pointed to Opal Burruss’ performance Thursday night.

“She started running the ball up the court quicker,” she said. “And it worked once, so she did it again. And then it kept working. So, we just kept whoever had the ball running up the court, looking for the pass.”

That kind of hustle comes with conditioning, which Duffy and Gray have also been working on.

“We make them run what we call a mountain,” said Duffy. “They have to run to the freethrow line and back, then half court and back, and then all the way to the end and back. And then reverse it, like a mountain.”

At first, while the team could finish the drill, “It wasn’t great,” Duffy said.

But the coaches kept introducing the drill, particularly when the team doesn’t perform well during a league game.

“They weren’t talking on the court the last time they played McKenzie, so they had to run two mountains in practice,” Duffy said. “They had no problem. They said, ‘This is easy now.’”

And the team learned the lesson, as the team constantly traded calls throughout Thursday night’s game. That helped all but three on the team to score points that game. Heather Wierichs led with 11 points, followed by Briena Jensen with 7, Emily Stevens with five, Burruss with 4 and 2 points each from Roni Granger and Daleena Bender.

As for the three that didn’t sink a shot, Duffy said, “They were taking shots all night, they were trying. Last season we had girls who wouldn’t shoot. They were scared to. Some of them are on this team, and they still wouldn’t shoot. But they’re shooting this year.”

Duffy was clearly proud of the work the team had put in.

“How they keep showing up, how they keep working hard. They’re not giving up when the calls don’t go their way, or the ball isn’t falling in the hoop,” Duffy said. “We’ve had a lot of that this year. We have a hard time making those points. But they keep persevering. That’s a skill that’s not just about basketball. That’s a skill that they need for life. And I’m really proud of them that they keep working.”

The next two games will be at home, when the Sailors host Alsea this Tuesday, then Siletz Valley on Thursday. Both games tip off at 5:30 p.m.

Those games will be followed by a non-league makeup game at C.S. Lewis Academy, then possibly back home to Mapleton — depending on how the next two games go.

“I don’t think the next game will be easy at all, we’re going to have to work hard for that one. And Siletz too,” Duffy said. “But I think the girls are perfectly capable if they keep their head in the game.”

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