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Westside makes first trip to state

The Westside Christian girls basketball team made history Saturday night by earning the program's first-ever trip to the state basketball tournament, which will begin Thursday in Salem.

Westside Christian managed to shake off a slow start and some first-half foul trouble to register a convincing 47-34 victory over Coquille in a first-round playoff game that was contested at Cascade College in northeast Portland.

The eighth-ranked Eagles will now take on Nyssa in the first-round of the state tournament, which will be played at Willamette University. Nyssa, which is ranked fifth in the state, knocked off Rainier in its first-round playoff game.

'We're just real excited to be in this position,' Westside Christian coach Ryan Cruz said after last Saturday's game. 'This is the first time in Westside's history that we've done this.'

Based solely on their state rankings, Nyssa might be slightly favored in Thursday's tournament game, but the Bulldogs will have their hands full with Westside's multi-faceted team. Against Coquille, the Eagles simply had too many weapons.

Kasey Kanada, a speedy 5-foot-2 sophomore guard, was the sparkplug for Westside Christian and no one for Coquille was quick enough to keep her from penetrating to the basket. When the Eagles chose to go their inside players, the 5-11 Jessica Monore and 5-9 Jessi-Ann Michaelson were too powerful for the smaller Red Devils.

'Casey does a pretty good job of penetrating for us, and the shooters did a good job of spotting up,' Cruz said. 'When our inside game is not on, our shooters usually come through.'

Both parts of Westside's offense shined against Coquille. Monroe finished with a game-high 14 points, including 10 in the second half. Michaelson and Kanada had 10 points each while Sarah Staropoli, another 5-2 speedster, added nine points to the cause.

The Eagles threatened to blow the game wide open early in the second quarter after back-to-back lay-ups by Kanada and a turnaround jumper by Staropoli gave Westside a 15-6 lead. But some foul trouble by the Eagles helped Coquille close its deficit to 21-15 by halftime.

Whatever confidence Coquille gained from that late second-quarter rally was all but erased early in the third period, however. The Eagles started that stanza with 10 unanswered points, including a pair of rebound baskets by Michaelson, and suddenly Westside had a commanding lead at 31-15.

By the end of the third period, the Eagles were looking almost exclusively for Monroe and Michaelson inside. Monroe had two baskets late in the quarter, then Michaelson added a hoop to start the final period and Monroe followed with two more close-range baskets, which helped push Westside Christian's lead to an insurmountable 45-25 with 3:22 left in the game.

'We knew our inside game was going to be key for us tonight,' Cruz said.

After that, Westside's biggest concern was the welfare of Kanada, who was virtually trampled midway through the final period during a scramble for a loose ball. The Eagles' point guard wasn't seriously injured on the play but she wound up spending the rest of the game on the bench as a precautionary measure.

Coquille managed to make the final score somewhat respectable but only because the Devils kept their starting unit on the floor the rest of the way while Cruz emptied his bench. That helped Coquille score nine of the game's last 11 points.

Any way you cut it, it was one of Westside's easiest wins against a quality opponent.

'It never seems to be that easy,' Cruz said. 'We've been kind of up and down this year, but I knew we had the potential to (make it to state).'