Dec. 21, 2021 — The Mapleton Middle School girls basketball team traveled to Crow on Dec. 18 for their league’s championship tournament. The Sailors went 3-0 and came home middle school champions of the Mountain West Conference.
In the first game of the day, Mapleton beat Mohawk 25-16. This put the Sailors into the semifinals. In that game, they squeaked by Alsea 16-14. Siletz awaited Mapleton in the championship game.
Mapleton Coach Lou Burruss knew the championship game was going to be a challenge for his team.
“We were struggling on offense and we're fortunate that the bench came through and solidified our defense [in the first two games],” said Burruss. “We were tired and pretty beat down as we got back on the bus again for the third bus trip of the day. We were playing Siletz. They won their first two games 35-6 and 55-20. Back in November, they beat us by 37 points.”
After Siletz jumped out to an early 6-2 lead, Burruss knew that his team would have to try something different if they were going to have a chance. The Sailors decided to play as patiently as possible.
“We held the ball up top and kept holding it,” said Burruss. “They didn't come out. We held it some more. Their fans started heckling us. We held it. Finally, they extended the zone. We calmly passed it around 10 or 15 times then bam — layup. Then we got a stop and held the ball. They extended the defense. We passed it then bam — teardrop [a short arching shot a few feet from the basket]. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.”
Mapleton was up 13-8 at halftime. Then Siletz made an adjustment and switched from zone to man-to-man defense. The Sailors anticipated the adjustment.
“It took us a couple of possessions to adapt, but we got the on-ball screen going and our guards started shredding,” said Burruss. “We got layups or drop offs to the post for layups. The gap widened and widened and widened. They got frustrated and started fouling. We went to the line and their stars got in foul trouble. We ended up with our highest point total of the season.”
Mapleton dominated the second half and won 42-21 to take the Mountain West Conference championship.
Making the league title all the more impressive, the MMS team includes not only 7th and 8th graders but also four 6th graders and three 5th graders. The team finished the season 14-2, playing teams of 7th and 8th graders from larger schools.
“These girls really pulled off something special,” said Burruss.