Sunset leads at halftime against the 10-time champs before finally falling 52-42
by: MILES VANCE, STRIVING — Sunset’s Katherine Salness drives to the basket during her team's 52-42 loss to Oregon City in Friday's Class 6A state semifinal game.

PORTLAND - You might have excused the Sunset girls basketball team if the Apollos played like they were 'just glad to be there' in Friday's Class 6A state semifinal against Oregon City.

But the ninth-ranked Apollos aren't built that way, not even when facing Oregon's most storied high school girls basketball program at the Chiles Center, home of the Pioneers' 10 state titles.

Sunset led Oregon City 23-21 at halftime and was still within three points midway through the third before the Pioneers turned up the heat and pulled away for a 52-42 win and berth in the 6A championship game.

'We knew they would probably underestimate us so we just wanted to come out and show them we could give them a game and that's what we did,' said Sunset sophomore guard Alyssa Martin, who tied teammate Samantha Potter for team-high scoring honors with 13 points. 'We knew that if we came out hard it would be a close game.'

'No one thought we were going to make it this far and it was a big motivation for us to play our best and get as far as we can,' said Potter, who also had a team-high seven rebounds. 'We proved that we can play with them. We're not going to just roll over because they're Oregon City.'

Sunset did that and more in Friday's first half, controlling the tempo and getting eight first-quarter points from Martin en route to a 15-14 lead over the Pioneers. The Apollos continued their aggressive defense and controlled offensive attack in the second period, getting four points from Laura Stanulis and holding Oregon City to 3-of-10 shooting to lead 23-21 at the half.

'We had the tempo we wanted the first half,' said Sunset coach Bill Priester. 'I think they realized they were in a battle.'

And with a state championship berth on the line, the Pioneers hit the court in the third quarter and stepped it up. Oregon City, after hitting just 7-of-25 shots in the first half, knocked down 7-of-11 in the third quarter, got six points from Calli Jackson and five (including a three-pointer) from Melair Holterhoff.

Sunset still led 27-26 when Martin hit a jumpshot from the top of the key with 5 minutes, 35 seconds left in the third, but the Pioneers closed the quarter on a 15-5 run, with Jackson scoring six points in the period's final 1:46 to lead 41-32.

They 'picked it up one gear, one degree, and that faster tempo favored them,' Priester said. 'They picked it up offensively and … got a little separation.'

Sunset was still within 46-39 when Potter scored back-to-back baskets three minutes into the fourth quarter, but the Apollos wouldn't score again until Candace Richard's three-pointer with 37 seconds remaining and the Pioneers pulled away to win.

'We wanted to keep the game in the low to mid-40s,' Priester said. 'If it was above that, it favored them and they got 52.'

Despite the loss, the Apollos were proud of their effort and of pushing one of Oregon's best teams to the wall.

'Everyone was fired up. We wanted to win, to keep it close,' Martin said. 'That was our attitude the whole game.'

'We gave it all we got,' Potter said. 'It was amazing, a great experience.'

Stanulis added eight points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals, and Anna Johnson grabbed six rebounds for Sunset. For Oregon City, Brittany Knighton scored 18 points and had three blocks, Jackson finished with 12 points and six rebounds, and Holterhoff had 11 points and three steals.

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