Not only do you have to be good to win at the state tournament, sometimes you might even need some help from the scorekeeper.
The Westside Christian girls basketball team discovered that the hard way at last week's 3A tournament at Willamette University in Salem.
Westside, which was appearing in its first-ever state tournament, had a 12-point lead early in the fourth quarter of its state quarterfinal game against Nyssa last Thursday. Then the lead was down to eight when a Nyssa player stepped to the line with six minutes left in the contest.
The player missed both of her free throws, but Nyssa's scorekeeper gave her credit for one of them, as did the scoreboard operator. However, the official scorekeeper for OSAA, plus the scorekeepers for Westside Christian, OregonPrep.com and the game's radio broadcaster all showed that the Eagles still had an eight-point lead.
But nobody discovered the discrepancy right away. In fact, the game continued for another 3½ minutes, during which time Nyssa made a huge rally and trimmed Westside's lead to 45-44. But the scoreboard showed it was 45-all.
So, the referees spent the next 12 minutes trying to unravel the problem. After checking with everyone at the scorer's table, the officials decided to side with the Nyssa scorekeeper and left the score at 45-all.
Nyssa then finished its comeback by scoring seven of the game's final eight points to register a 52-46 victory. Nyssa wound up claiming the state title while Westside eventually took home the sixth-place trophy.
Afterward, Westside coach Ryan Cruz couldn't help but think about what could have been. If the officials had gotten the scoring problem fixed correctly, Westside would have been in front by one point and the Eagles could have taken time off the clock instead of being forced to attack the basket.
'It just changes the entire game,' Cruz said of the scoring snafu. 'It was very (aggravating).'
The officials also put Westside in a hole by calling a number of early fouls against three of the team's best players - Kasey Kanada, Jessica Monroe and Jessi-Ann Michaelson - which left the Eagles short-handed for long stretches of the game. Eventually, all three of those girls fouled out of the game, and Cruz felt many of the calls against them were questionable at best.
'If I've got my starting five in the whole way, I think we win that game by 10,' Cruz said. 'I thought it was five against seven … That was a real hard one for us (to deal with).'
On the other hand, Nyssa deserves a lot of credit, especially after the team was forced to forfeit 18 games late in the regular season over a technical error regarding the registration of one of its players who was being home schooled. The Bulldogs then had to win five of their final six games just to make the playoffs.
And they looked like a team that was on a mission in the first quarter of last Thursday's game. The Bulldogs had considerable luck getting the ball inside, and when they didn't score the officials were often quick to call a foul on the Eagles. Nyssa wound up making 9 of 12 foul shots in that first period, which gave the Eastern Oregon team a 15-8 lead heading into the second stanza.
The second quarter, though, was all Westside. In fact, it might have been the team's best eight minutes of the tournament.
Junior post Jessica Monroe was able to assert herself inside and had six points in the period. In addition, Allison Brunton came off the bench and hit a couple of long jumpers, including a three-pointer. And 5-foot-2 point guard Kasey Kanada had the Bulldogs on their heels with her ability to push the ball down court. Westside out-scored Nyssa 19-8 in that stanza and took a 27-23 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The third quarter wasn't Westside's best, but it was much worse for Nyssa. The Eagles managed just seven points in the period - on a rebound basket by Monroe, a three-pointer by Sarah Staropoli and lay-up by Grace Wentzien. Nyssa, on the other hand, would have been shut out in that period if not for a free throw (this one actually did go through the basket) with three seconds left.
That gave Westside a 34-24 lead heading into the final period. But, the Eagles were in a precarious position with Monroe, Michaelson and Kanada all saddled with four fouls by then.
Michaelson, a senior forward who likely will land a Division-I track scholarship, fouled out just 14 seconds into the fourth quarter. Monroe lasted until the six-minute mark, which also marked the moment of Nyssa's mysterious free throw.
The long wait, as the officials tried to determine which scorebook to believe, might have killed Westside's momentum. When play resumed, Nyssa then turned the game around with an impressive comeback.
'It just kind of slowly slipped away from us,' Cruz said. 'But we were in it the whole way.'
Monroe wound up being Westside's leading scorer for the game with 12 points. She attempted only three shots, though, and made all of them. She also went 6 of 7 from the foul line, grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and had a team-high three steals. Staropoli finished with 10 points.
That loss forced Westside to play a 9 a.m. consolation game the next morning, and playing in the breakfast bracket game really didn't bother the Eagles too much as they stormed an easy 58-31 victory over Creswell.
'I was real proud of our girls,' Cruz said. 'We jumped on them and just never looked back.'
It was a close for only about eight minutes. After that it was all Westside. Kanada, who was named her team's player of the game, had a huge second quarter with 11 points and 10 of them came in the last three minutes, including a jumper as the halftime buzzer sounded. That gave the Eagles a 35-20 lead at the break.
Kanada finished the contest with 17 points, including a 11-of-17 effort from the foul line. Monroe also had 11 points and 14 rebounds, and Staropoli added 11 points.
Coming into the tournament, Cruz's goal for his team was to make it to Saturday's final round, and the victory over Creswell accomplished that. But Westside's run ended with Saturday's 51-29 loss to top-ranked Myrtle Point.
'It was a rough morning,' Cruz said. 'Going into the third quarter, I could feel our energy was down.'
The Eagles trailed only 24-20 at halftime, but Westside struggled the rest of the way and scored just nine points in the second half.
'I knew going in that (Myrtle Point) would be tough,' Cruz said. 'And we really didn't have our game.'
Overall, though, it would be hard to complain about the season that Westside (20-8) had.
'I've got to hand it to our girls,' the coach said. 'This is the first time in our history that we've finished this high.'
Monroe was one of the few bright spots for Westside in that final game. She had 14 points and eight rebounds. She wound up making second-team all-tournament.
'She had a great tournament,' Cruz said.