Sailors celebrate seniors on Feb. 1

Mapleton’s five basketball seniors are (from left): Joe Shepard, Jahala Blake, Opal Burruss, Mikayla Flansberg and Brier Shird. (Photos by Zac Burtt/Siuslaw News)

Mapleton continues push through Mountain West season

Feb. 4, 2022 — The Mapleton community came together on Feb. 1 to celebrate Mapleton High School’s basketball seniors during the annual Senior Night. This celebrated the five players’ last year with the Sailor basketball program.

Both MHS girls and boys teams had short ceremonies before their games.

First, four seniors were honored on the girls team: Jahala Blake, Opal Burruss, Mikayla Flansberg and Brier Shird. MHS Student Body President Caleb Lewis was master of ceremonies and introduced each student, one at a time.

First was Shird, who is a guard on the Sailor basketball team. She is one of the team’s leaders and, according to her coach, plays excellent defense at the wing spot.

“Brier is one of the most coachable kids I have ever had the pleasure of coaching,” said MHS Girls Basketball Coach Vanessa Clemons. “She is so eager to get better and wants to learn the game. She is hands down the most improved player on the team and is a BEAST [sic] on defense.”

Next, came Burruss. She is the team’s leading scorer and the team’s floor general. Parents Mizu and Lou Burruss presented her with a balloon shaped like a horse.

“Opal started out the season as a silent leader on the court, but as the season has progressed, she has found her voice,” said Clemons. “She has become the leader I knew she always could be. I couldn’t be prouder. Opal sets the tone for our team both on and off the court.”

Last to appear was Blake. Unanimously considered by her teammates as the toughest player on the MHS squad, she spends every game battling the biggest, meanest player on each opponent’s roster.

“Jahala is one of the most caring kids I have ever met,” said Clemons. “She always makes sure the team is taken care of on and off the court. Jahala shared with me at the beginning of that she hadn’t played basketball since 8th grade. She has been a force down low defensively and is our second leading scorer.” 

Flansberg was not able to attend the ceremony, but was represented by her parents and sister.

Flansberg is an emotional player who leaves it all on the court every game.
“Micayla has worked all season to become a better all-around player and has succeeded,” said Clemons. “She is the example of school pride. She is always working to improve the school and activities.”

While Flansberg missed Senior Night, “she still took the time to send the team support via group chat before the game,” Clemons added.

For the coach, this first year leading Mapleton’s girls basketball team will be one she won’t soon forget.

“I am so proud of how far my seniors have come,” Clemons said. “I have never coached a nicer group of kids that are eager to get better — and, most importantly, fight. This is my first group of seniors at Mapleton, and they will have a special place in my heart. I know they will succeed in whatever they do moving forward.”

The boys team features just one senior, Joe Shepard. Before the game, Lewis introduced him and welcomed his parents to the court.

Shepard plans to attend Oregon State University and major in mathematics.

“Joe has made, from his junior to senior seasons, the biggest jumps in skill I’ve seen in my five years at Mapleton,” said Eric Wolgamott, head coach of the MHS boys team.

Next was the actual games which, which in both cases, happened to be against a very tough Mohawk squad.

The Mustang girls came in undefeated in Mountain West play at 9-0 (14-4 overall) and ranked #8 in the state in the latest OSAA 1A Coaches Poll.

The pregame festivities created a raucous crowd that was ready to cheer on their Sailors from the opening tip. The first quarter was played with high intensity by both teams. Mapleton stayed close with a very good Mustang team. Mohawk held a slim 5-4 lead after the first quarter.

Mapleton took a 6-5 early in the second quarter, but that was their last lead of the game. An experienced and aggressive Mohawk squad took a 13-6 lead at the half.

The second half was all Mustangs. Despite solid play from the Sailor bench, with scoring from freshman Lexi Flansberg and sophomore Tanae Robbins, Mohawk built a large lead and won 40-18.

Leading scorers for the Sailors were, appropriately, two seniors; Blake had 6 points and Burruss had 5.

Two days before Senior Night, the Sailor girls traveled to Siletz Valley for a game against the Warriors. Mapleton’s press was working to perfection and the Sailors crushed Siletz Valley 41-8 for their biggest victory margin of the season. Freshman Helen Burruss filled up the stat sheet with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 6 steals. Robbins also had 9 points for MHS.

After those two games, the Sailor girls sit at 4-5 (6-11 overall) in Mountain West play, in fifth place. Though plans for league play-offs are still being finalized by the conference’s athletic directors, a fifth place finish would most likely earn Mapleton a spot in the league playoffs, with a chance to earn a spot at the OSAA 1A State Tournament in Baker City.

The Sailors faced the team directly ahead of them in the standings, Crow, on Thursday night after press deadlines. Tonight, the Mapleton girls travel down Highway 36 to face rival Triangle Lake. The Lakers are in third place in the Mountain West League, setting up Saturday’s match-up as one with huge post season implications. Tip-off is at 4 p.m.

The Mapleton boys also had an uphill battle with their match-up with Mohawk. The Mustang boys are tied for first with a 7-2 record (13-6 overall) and are ranked #16 in the OSAA’s computer rankings, the highest for any Mountain West team.

The Sailors got down early and could never find their groove. Mohawk won 59-28. The bright spot for MHS was that senior Shepard led scoring with 17 points.

Two days earlier, the Mapleton boys fell on the road, to Siletz Valley, 58-26.

The Sailor boys faced Crow on Thursday after press deadlines and on Saturday at 6 p.m. they will play at Triangle Lake.