Sunset rallies past Tigard to get tourney bid
TIGARD — For the first three quarters, the Tigard High School girls basketball team looked to be at least slightly in charge.
The Tigers, behind the play of super sophomore Campbell Gray, seemed to be just one quarter away from earning a Class 6A state tournament bid.
But things changed in that decisive fourth quarter — wow, did they ever change.
The Sunset squad, behind the play of determined seniors Maddie Muhlheim and Rose Pflug, came roaring back in a big way.
The Apollos, after trailing Tigard 45-39 with 7 minutes and 6 seconds left to play in the contest, outscored the Tigers 20-4 the rest of the way to get a 56-49 victory in the Class 6A state playoff second round game played Saturday at Tigard High School.
"I'm so excited," said Muhlheim, who scored a team-high 19 points in the contest. "We've worked so long for this. I don't even have words to describe it. This feels really good."
"This means a lot to us, especially for the seniors," said Pflug, who scored eight of her 11 points in the decisive fourth quarter. "We've worked all four years to get to the Chiles Center, and we're all super close. This means the world to us."
With the victory, Sunset, the No. 2 team out of the Metro League, and the No. 10 team in the final OSAA power rankings, improved to 20-6 on the season. The Apollos also advance to the Class 6A state tournament for the first time since 2008. They'll open the tournament on Thursday, when they face defending Class 6A state champion South Salem in a quarterfinal game starting at 8:15 p.m. at the University of Portland's Chiles Center.
"We're going to have to keep being ourselves and be ready to go," Muhlheim said.
"This is what we've wanted to do since Day 1," Pflug said. "Winning a championship would be good, but we're going to take it one game at a time."
Tigard, the Three Rivers League champion, and the No. 7 team in the OSAA power rankings, finished it season with a final record of 19-7.
"We came into this game first in league, and seventh in the state," said Tigard senior Kylie Warren, who finished up a four-year varsity career with the Tigers. "That's a big accomplishment. I had a lot of fun here. It was a great experience."
"We didn't expect to get this far, and no one else thought so, either," said Gray, who scored a game-high 24 points in Saturday's contest. "This was a great season for us. Today, we came out strong, but in the end, they wanted it more. They deserved it."
Gray, and the Tigers, certainly did come out strong in Saturday's playoff contest. The sophomore guard scored 12 points in the first quarter. Tigard also got baskets from Warren and senior Lexie Sawin in the period, helping the Tigers take a 16-12 lead into the second quarter.
"Campbell came out loaded for bear," Tigard coach Steve Naylor said. "She set the tone early."
The Tigers kept rolling after that. Warren sank a pair of jump shots, the second coming off an assist from junior Gabby McGaughey, and senior Abby Portwood buried a three-pointer from the left side, upping the Tigard lead to 23-16 with 3:19 left in the first half.
It looked like the Tigers would have a chance to increase their lead from there, as Pflug and Sunset senior Amanda Carpenter were both on the bench for most of the second quarter with two fouls apiece.
"That was frustrating," Pflug said. "But our underclassmen have been working hard, and I trusted them. I knew they'd come through."
Freshman guard Mary Kay Naro, junior guard Delaney Ragan and sophomore post Ellie Mead all had baskets for the Apollos in the period. And Muhlheim's two free throws, coming with 7.1 seconds left to play in the quarter, cut Tigard's lead to 25-22 at halftime.
The Apollos carried their momentum into the third quarter. Naro opened the third quarter with a layup. Pflug followed with a three-point play and Ragan scored on a drive, giving Sunset a 29-25 lead with 5:55 left in the period.
Now, it was Tigard's turn to play catch-up — and the Tigers were up to the challenge.
Tigard, getting three-pointers from McGaughey and freshman Delaney Leavitt, and hoops from sophomore post Dani Lyons and Campbell in the final minute of the period, rallied to take a 40-36 lead into the fourth quarter.
Gray kept playing big for Tigard early in the fourth quarter. She opened the period with a layup, off a pass from Warren, and then, following a three-pointer by Pflug, she answered with a three-point basket of her own, giving the Tigers a 45-39 advantage with 7:06 left to play in the game.
But Sunset, determined not to be denied, took off from there in a big way.
Muhlheim drained a 23-foot three-pointer, Naro scored on a layup off an assist by Muhlheim, and Pflug sank a three-pointer, giving the Apollos an 8-0 run in a time span of 1:01, and, more importantly, a 47-45 lead with 5:29 left in the contest.
Gray sank a free throw to cut the lead to 47-46 with 3:52 remaining, but the Tigers wouldn't be able to regain the lead, as Sunset took off again.
Muhlheim connected on another three-pointer, and then Pflug and Muhlheim both went 2 for 2 from the foul line, pushing the Apollo lead to 54-46 with 1:11 left to play.
Warren sank a pair of free throws to trim the margin to 54-48 with 44.2 seconds left, but Muhlheim answered with two free throws with 20.5 seconds left to play, to help wrap up the 56-49 victory, and ignite Sunset's victory celebration.
"I was so emotional," Muhlheim said with a smile. "I was crying even before the ended. This was so much fun. I was so excited for this game."
"Yeah, it was a lot of fun," Pflug said.
Sunset, in the decisive fourth quarter, made five of seven shots from the field, with four three-pointers — two each by Muhlheim and Pflug. The Apollo defense also stepped up, as the Tigers made just two of 13 shots from the field in the final stanza.
"We knew it was do or die," Pflug said of the fourth-quarter rally. "It was lose and go home, and we wanted to keep playing."
"We've had good comebacks before," Muhlheim said. "That helped. And our defense was excellent in the fourth quarter."
Muhlheim scored 15 of her team-high 19 points in the second half, including 10 in the fourth quarter. Pflug scored all 11 of her points in the second half, while also pulling down four rebounds.
Naro also reached double figures with 12 points. Ragan added nine points.
Sunset, as a team, made 19 of 29 shots from the field, with six three-pointers, and 12 of 22 free-throw attempts.
For Tigard, Gray had four rebounds and two assists to go with her game-high 24 points. Warren finished with nine points, six rebounds and three assists. Portwood, McGaughey and Leavitt added three points apiece for the Tigers.
"That was a physical game," Gray said. "We played hard, but Maddie and Rose are great players."
"They hit their shots in the fourth quarter. They were great," Warren said. "A couple of those shots, it was just like 'what can you do?' It just fell that way."
"Shout out to Tigard," Pflug said. "Campbell and Kylie played great. They're a real good team."
"We had a great year," Naylor said. "I thought that if we finished in the top four in league, that would be great. To win it was quite an accomplishment. We had some missed assignments tonight, but I can't fault the effort. I'm really proud of the girls."
Tigard made 18 of 48 shots from the field, with four three-pointers, and nine of 15 free-throw attempts. The Tigers had just five turnovers for the contest, while Sunset had seven.