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Cowgirls can’t crash TDW’s party, fall in finale

Cowgirls fall to The Dalles Wahtonka on Thursday 65-49 in season finale; with win, the Eagle Indians will continue on to the Class 5A state playoffs

by: ANDREW MATHESON/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Cowgirl Rachel Kelso guards The Dalles Wahtonka’s point guard Caitlin McCleary as she brings the ball up court on Thursday night in Prineville. The Dalles Wahtonka defeated the Cowgirls, and will now enter the Class 5A state playoffs.

The Crook County Cowgirls were given a chance to play spoiler on Thursday night when they hosted The Dalles Wahtonka (TDW).
   However TDW, who was battling Summit for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Intermountain Conference, entered the contest with a "win and you're in" scenario, and they didn't allow the Cowgirls to spoil it.
   After a slow first quarter, one in which that saw the Cowgirls outscore TDW 20-13, the Eagle Indians took control of the game behind Andrea Bailey's 14 points and Laura North's 13 points, and went on for the 65-49 playoff-clinching win.
   The win eliminates Summit from playoff contention, and places TDW into a playoff match at Sherwood on Feb. 28.
   For the Cowgirls, it was a microcosm of the season. After a strong start, Crook County struggled in the second and third quarters, combining for 15 points, and 11 turnovers, to TDW's 45 points.
   "We win the first and fourth quarters by seven (points) each time, but we just didn't have that consistent play throughout the game," Cowgirls Coach Kurt Sloper said. "Going into tonight, we knew that's what would be the difference: consistent play.
   "And that's what we're trying to fix. We're trying to have that first quarter every quarter and build that consistency and we can do that. We have done it this year and we've proven to ourselves that we can, we just have to do that on a regular basis, night in and night out."
   The Cowgirls excelled in the first and fourth quarters, keeping their turnovers (six) low, while keeping their scoring (34 points total) up.
   They jumped out to an 18-9 lead in the first quarter after Jessica Lea intercepted a pass and found Kaitlyn Duncan on the left side who nailed a jumper from eight feet.
   But TDW would tie the game at 22-22 less than three minutes into the second quarter in the midst of a 15-2 run.
   Although the Cowgirls were only down six points at halftime, the Eagle Indians started the third quarter on a 10-2 run, and would essentially put the game out of reach with a 58-35 fourth-quarter lead.
   The Cowgirls managed to cut into TDW's lead in the fourth quarter, most notably behind 8 of 10 shooting from the free-throw line, but could not mount a comeback despite outscoring the Eagle Indians 14-7 in the final eight minutes.
   Jessica Lea scored 12 points on the night to lead the Cowgirls, while Jamie Cary added 10 points and five rebounds and Kaitlyn Duncan supplied eight points. Unfortunately, Crook County shot 15 of 40 (38 percent) from the field on the night, while TDW shot 21 of 42 (50 percent).
   "We looked great in the first quarter, but then we had some trouble getting stops," Sloper said. "I thought we panicked a little bit and lost our composure on the basketball court."
   The coach also discussed purpose on the court: "Are we making a pass with purpose or just making a pass just because?
   "We're trying to create that (purpose) and I think we're slowly getting there," Sloper said. "I think we're definitely a much better ball club than we were at the beginning of the year. We've got great kids doing good things, it's just a matter of time before good things are going to happen."
   The Cowgirls will graduate only one senior - Cassey Hehn, who scored three points against TDW.
   While the season is complete for the Cowgirls (3-11 IMC, 8-15 overall), TDW (7-7 IMC, 12-12 overall) will advance to the state playoffs next week.