La Grande, Pleasant Hill, Tillamook gave White Buffalos various challenges

by: Photo By Brian Liebenstein - Elise Hawes goes up for Madras against Pleasant Hill during the Buffs run to the championship.

Sports Editor
   Madras High's march to the Oregon 3A girls basketball state championship was filled with challenges at each step. After overcoming a higher-ranked La Grande team in the first round, Madras found itself having to comeback from its lowest scoring half of the season in its next game, against Pleasant Hill. Then, in the semifinal against Tillamook, it had to beat a team which returned virtually intact this season after beating the Buffs by 20 points in last year's fifth-place game. Yet, Madras survived each step and then claimed the grand prize against Burns.
   La Grande blitzed
   Madras used a 25-6 second-quarter explosion -- sparked by a combination of defensive turnovers anchored by Elise Hawes and Tosha Wilson plus the scoring of Jar‚ Retherford and Tara Prow -- to pull away from La Grande on Wednesday, after a tense 9-7 first-quarter on its way to a 54-36 victory.
   La Grande was ranked ahead of Madras but couldn't contain the transition game the Buffs showed in the second quarter. Ripping away rebounds and steals before quickly passing over or around La Grande's defense left Madras comfortably ahead at intermission.
   "All season long we've focused on defense. That was what we wanted to do at the state tournament," Madras head coach Mike Osborne said.
   "Going into the tournament we looked at how strong each of the posts or guards on the teams we might meet were and then figured out what we wanted to do to stop them," said Osborne. He admitted that while it had to win a play-in game to earn a berth in the tourney against Madras, La Grande was the team the Buffs were spending most their time getting ready for. The preparation paid off when La Grande beat Rainier in a sub-tournament game.
   Having 5-10 La Grande junior post position player Kayla Couch called for her second personal foul while trying to guard Hawes late in the first quarter helped Madras in that game, as did the ability of Retherford and Prow to take advantage of La Grande's attempt to double team Wilson.
   While La Grande kept close, using a basket by another post position player in Amber Rasmussen, to cut the Buffs' 15-9 lead to 15-11, with nearly six minutes still left in the half, the Tigers then went on a scoring drought. It was nearly five minutes before the Madras defense gave up another score.
   The Wilson to Hawes combination clicked for two baskets whle a stretch including two baskets by Retherford and one by Jaylyn Suppah. The Buffs turned their four-point lead into a 32-11 cushion and 34-13 halftime lead.
   Retherford's first-half scoring provided the foundation for her game high 17 points as Hawes added 14 more and Prow 12. Those totals left La Grande's holding Wilson to seven points seem ineffective. A half dozen or more of the top scorers' baskets resulting from Wilson's assists evidenced that.
   "They were trying to cover Tara (Wilson) with two people. We practice getting open when they do that. It let me and Tara have better chances," said Retherford. La Grande's attempts to pressure Wilson usually backfired as she made a move to dribble past them into open position or found one of the other girls more open than usual.
   Madras gave up the first 10 points of the second half but recovered to keep La Grande from trimming the lead to less than 10 points.
   Another Madras run, capped by Hawes rebounding and passing to Prow for a lay up, made the Madras lead 45-27. From then until the final buzzer, Madras enjoyed at least a 14-point lead. Its lead let Madras give almost everyone some time.
   Whitney Sisk wound up playing a few minutes in that win, before catching a bug or virus that slowed her that evening. It forced Sisk to sit on the bench for the Buffs second, third and fourth games, Osborne said.
   Pleasant Hill overcome
   One night after its sensational second-quarter, Madras needed all of a third-quarter stampede against Pleasant Hill to claim a 32-29 quarterfinal win after trailing 9-0 after the first quarter and 16-8 at halftime.
   After beating Pleasant Hill Madras maintained an advantage for all but a few moments against Tillamook and for the entire game against Burns.
   Defensive adjustments let Madras keep from falling further behind Pleasant Hill than it did. Missing a number of easy chances to score which the girls created against Pleasant Hill in the first half did not bother Osborne.
   "Sometimes you just have to keep shooting to shoot your way out of the slump," Osborne said.
   Madras's third-year coach said he had discovered it was a toss up as to whether to keep taking shots or only take the ones that seem absolutely sure so he told the girls to keep shooting, even when they got a little behind.
   At the beginning of the third quarter its defense started working and shots started falling. That let Madras make up ground quickly on Thursday.
   By the end of the game's penultimate period, Madras had outscored Pleasant Hill's Billies to assume a 22-21 lead.
   Hawes was the only Buff in double figures in the game with 10 points while the Madras defense prevented any of Pleasant Hill's girls from reaching that level. Cora McVey's eight points topped the Billies.
   Those eight were matched by both Wilson and Retherford among the Buffs. Suppah scored her most points of the tourney for Madras when she twice beat Pleasant Hill's stoppers to earn four points on Thursday.
   The other Madras points on Thursday were tallied by Prow, with two points. Due to the slower pace early in the first half, Pleasant Hill scored less than it averaged.
   Tillamook avenged
   Osborne said he didn't mention it and Madras didn't talk about it. Yet, he admitted, it was probably in the back of everyone's mind that the semifinal was providing the Buffs a chance to show Tillamook that the Madras team it played in the 2002 consolation championship was nowhere near as ready as this years.
   The fans found out how good both teams could play in the opening stanza as virtually every good run down the court, each defensive stop, all the rebounds and shots were taken, and usually made cleanly. Only later did any pressure show in the form of some bobbles by both teams.
   Hawes had 18 points for Madras while Wilson scored 11. That helped counter Millie Wilson's scoring for Tillamook. The two Wilsons are not related, as far as Tosha of Madras indicated.
   Wilson turned tiger on the boards against Tillamook, by collecting eight defensive and three offensive rebounds.
   Hawes had eight and Jaylyn Suppah five rebounds for the Buffs too. Having more chances proved only minimally advantageous as Tillamook got off 52 shots compared to just 47 for Madras, yet both teams finished with 16 field goals.
   Among those pitching in to boost that total for Madras were Retherford, with her six points, Prow with five, Sweeney with two and Suppah, with three. The outing in 2002 had not reflected their real potential, Osborne said of the Buffs.
   MADRAS (54) -- Jar‚ Retherford 17; Elise Hawes 14; Tosha Wilson 7; Tara Prow 12; Jaylyn Suppah 2; team 2. 3-point goals:
   LA GRANDE (36) -- Christie Weaver 13; Amber Rasmussen 6; Jill Jensen 6; Amanda Schuft 4; Nikki Nielsen 3; Amanda Timm 2; Kayla Crouch 2; Jenna Jensen 0. Totals 16-50 2-3 36.
   MADRAS H.S. WHITE BUFFAL O WilsonS (21-4)
   Rtherford, Jare 6-12 2- , Tosha 2-5 3-6 7; Suppah, Jaylyn 1-2 0-1 2. Totals 21-40 9-18 54.
   La Grande High School Tigers.. 7 6 14 9 - 36
   Madras H.S. White Buffalos.... 9 25 11 9 - 54
   3-point goals-La Grande High School Tigers 2-16 (Weaver, Christie 1-6;
   Nielsen, Nikki 1-3; Jensen, Jill 0-1; Crouch, Kayla 0-1; Jensen, Jenna 0-1;
   Rasmussen, Amber 0-4), Madras H.S. White Buffalos 3-9 (Rtherford, Jare 3-8; Hawes, Elise 0-1). Fouled out--La Grande High School Tigers-Schuft, Amanda;
   Jensen, Jill, Madras H.S. White Buffalos-None. Rebounds-La Grande High
   School Tigers 29 (Weaver, Christie 9), Madras H.S. White Buffalos 30
   (Suppah, Jaylyn 7). Assists-La Grande High School Tigers 9 (Jensen, Jill 3),
   Madrasadras H.S. White Buffalos 12.
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