by: LACEY MCGRAW - Miranda Halverson shoots for two over Prairie City defense.Country Christian's girls basketball team travelled to Baker last week for the OSAA 1A State Championship. The Cougars lost 50-18 to the returning state champions, Damascus Christian, in the quarterfinals, sending the Cougars into the consolation round. Coach Russell Halverson said Damascus Christian “was just better. No one will give them a game. We didn’t play bad, they just played good.”

Damascus Christian did make it to the final game, where they lost 57-52 to Condon/Wheeler.

On day two of the state tournament, the Cougars battled Prairie City. Prairie City controlled the tip, but failed to get points on the board early. The Cougars struggled in the first minutes of play as well, until Ashley LaPointe cashed in for three, nabbing the first points of the game.

A two-point bucket from Brittnea Corless put the Cougars up 5-0 midway through the first quarter, but Prairie City’s Amy Black struck right back with four points. Black would prove to be a menace for the Cougars all game.

With just under two minutes in the first quarter, Prairie City took the lead 6-5.

Courtney McGrath tied the game 6-6 from the foul line moments later, and LaPointe took the lead back for the Cougars with a two pointer with 15 seconds left in the quarter.

In the second quarter, Prairie City’s Lindsey Stewart closed the Cougars lead to one point from the foul line.

However, Mariah Stueland wouldn’t let the Panthers get the tie. Stueland sank a two pointer that gave the Cougars a three-point lead, 10-7. McGrath stretched that lead to 11-7 from the foul line, but Prairie City slugged back from the field, keeping the Cougars to a two-point lead.

Then, Miranda Halverson sank two in the paint, once again securing the four-point lead for the Cougars.

However, Black closed the Cougars lead to 13-11, shooting two for four from the foul line in less than a minute. She followed up her foul shots with a three pointer, taking the lead for Prairie City. Stewart nailed a two pointer after that, which gave the Panthers a 16-13 lead.

The Cougars fought back though. Audrey Barden’s first bucket of the game took the lead back for the Cougars, and Halverson followed it with two of her own that put the score at 19-16, Country Christian.

A foul shot for each team left the score at 20-17, Cougars, at the half.

It was a tough first half. The Cougars had a better shooting percentage, but they had more turnovers.

In the third, the Cougars leapt out early and boosted their lead to 25-17. Country Christian continued to slowly build a point cushion in the third, getting up to 27-17. Then the Panthers pushed back, cutting the ten-point lead in half.

With the score sitting at 27-22, Black hit a three pointer from the wing, and the Panthers were down by only two points.

Following Black’s three pointer, the Cougars regrouped and stretched their lead to 31-25. With 3:04 left in third, the Cougars held on to their lead, but Black had proved she could hit major points quick if given any leniency.

“The girls’ defense on Amy Black was amazing,” Coach Halverson said. “Miranda [Halverson] and Kennedy [Nofziger] held her pretty much in check until the third quarter.”

Stueland collected one point from the foul line, and then Black threw down two of her own.

Barden dropped in a two pointer that gave the Couagars a 34-27 lead at the end of the third.

In the first minute of the fourth, neither team could get the ball to drop.

But the Cougars’ real trouble began at 6:25 left in the quarter, when Barden fouled out.

The Panthers continued nailing points on the foul line and collecting two-point buckets.

With less than two minutes left in the game, the Panthers were nipping at the Cougars’ heels, with a score of 41-39.

Then Prairie City’s Kailey Kell sank a two pointer that tied the game, 41-41.

With seconds left on the clock, the Cougars couldn’t get their shots to drop. Prairie City got a chance before the buzzer but the ball didn’t fall. The game went into overtime with the score at 41-41.

Prairie City took possession on the tip, but failed to convert the possession into points.

However, Kell nabbed a two pointer moments later and broke the tie.

At the foul line, Anna Cunningham closed the Panthers’ lead to 43-42. The Cougars continued pressing Prairie City, but it cost them, as Stueland fouled out.

Black collected one point at the foul line, giving the Panthers a three-point cushion, 45-42.

Both teams fought for points after that, but no shots were dropping. With the clock winding down around a minute left, Kennedy Nofziger landed a two-point bucket that closed the Panthers’ lead to one point again.

However, Kell returned the favor with 20 seconds left on the clock, taking the Panthers’ lead back to three points, 47-44.

With the pressure on for the Cougars to get a three pointer, they set up. LaPointe got open and took it. The ball teased the rim but failed to drop.

“It was halfway down and rolled out,” Coach Russell Halverson said.

The Cougars grabbed the rebound and got up for two. With Prairie City in possession, the buzzer blew before the Cougars could get the clock stopped with a foul.

Prairie City took the win, after the Cougars outplayed them for three quarters.

“We had them,” Coach Halverson said, “but we missed some crucial points … The kids energy and effort was there. We just struggled to make some of the easy stuff.”

Coach Halverson said he was proud of the girls and the way they played all season. The Cougars only lost one league game all year, and finished with a 20-9 overall record.

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