June 19, 2021 — Mapleton’s girls’ basketball team played their final games of the season this past week. On Thursday, June 10, they faced Yoncalla away for a non-league game, where the Eagles won 43-14.
“I think it was a hard game for them overall,” said Coach Melissa Duffy. “They were tired from two hard games with tough competitors on Monday and Tuesday. And Yoncalla is a team that’s doing very well this year; they’re beating teams that are playoff-level teams, so I don't think there was enough confidence going into it.”
The girls returned home to play on Monday, June 14, against Triangle Lake, where the Lakers won 43-24.
“Last night, we were actually only down by two at the end of the first quarter, and 10 at the half, which was perfectly manageable,” said Duffy. “But it can be difficult to compete when the other team can put a whole new team on the floor.
“So, my girls were getting a little exhausted and not wanting to play through with the press and things like that, but that's what we have to do to win,” she said. “They still came out and tried. The last few minutes of the fourth quarter, they started to shine again and had more confidence within themselves. They made up quite a few points in that fourth quarter, just not enough to win.”
The girls have fought through a difficult season during which they’ve had to cancel four out of 13 games due to a lack of players, with two of those games falling this past week.
“Two girls injured themselves last night, so we're done [for the season],” said Duffy. “They both played injured.”
One player reported her injury after the game, but Brier Shird twisted her ankle and had it wrapped before she resumed playing.
“She said she was fine and she could play on it but I feel bad playing her after she did that,” Duffy said. “Brier's definitely a key part of the team. She's got lots of defensive ability, and she's always hustling and always working hard, so that means a lot that she wanted to keep playing.”
The girls showed true determination, fighting until the literal end through injuries and masks and everything else the year has thrown at them. Fortunately, the boys’ coach, Eric Wolgamott, has been willing to let the girls who want to play on his team with the boys.
Three girls, Opal Burruss, Emily Stevens and Heather Wierichs, opted to play at the boys’ final home game on Tuesday, June 15, against Crow, where they won 52-14. As today’s game at Alsea has also been canceled for the girls, they will play again with the boys.
“Coach Wolgamott might let them play or sit on the bench, but I don't know if they'll get much playing time because Alsea is a more competitive team,” said Duffy. “He did a really good job tonight, rotating everybody through and making sure all the seniors got to play their Senior Night. [He also made] sure that people who are going to play point guards next year got practice with that position.”
The rest of the team has also been welcoming.
“Honestly, the boys on the team have been fantastic about it,” said Duffy. “There was a time where if this would have even been suggested, boys would have had a ‘we're not playing with a bunch of girls’ kind of attitude, but not these boys. … I'm glad they got the opportunity, and that Coach Wolgamott is willing to even consider it and let them sit on the bench, let alone play.”
Tuesday was Burruss’s third game suiting up with the boys team.
“Opal has played the most with them, and they really encouraged her and tried to get her to shoot more and be more … I don't want to say greedy, but that's what it is, to take more shots. And I've seen it help in our games, so I've appreciated that. She's still not a greedy player, so I don't ever worry about that,” Duffy said.
Burruss, who is a junior, will be a strong leader for the Lady Sailors in the 2021-22 season.
“Opal is a great all-around athlete and she's a nice kid,” said Duffy. “She's like a little sponge; she wants to get better always. She's really great at analyzing the game, and she watches a lot of girls’ college ball. She tries to learn maneuvers and things from them, and that's what I like to see in a player: somebody that wants to take their own time to get better, too, and not just expect it to happen during the season.”
Although the girls had to end their season early, it was not for a lack of heart and grit, and that continues to show through their efforts in playing with the boys’ team.