Gladstone coeds upped their stock in Class 4A high school basketball, knocking off two top-10 ranked teams and claiming first place in the Cascade Holiday Tournament, held at Cascade High School Dec. 27-28.

After handling Elmira 53-43 in their opener, they beat Cascade 40-34 in the tournament championship game.

The win over Cascade in the final avenged state playoff losses to the Cougars in 2012 and 2013. Last year the Cougars went on to place fifth at state, after hammering Gladstone 54-32 in the round of 16. Two years ago the Cougars beat Gladstone 55-49 in the round of 16.

The Gladiators went on a 10-1 run to start the game and never trailed in the Dec. 28 tournament game with the Cougars. Cascade closed to within a point, at 29-28, in the third period. But the Gladiators went on a 9-0 run to start the fourth quarter and put the game on ice.

“Mikaela Simac was huge for us [in the Cascade game],” said Gladstone coach Pat Scott. “She just flat out shut down [Cascade star Austyn] Lowder. Lowder tore us up in our playoff game a year ago, but she scored only seven points [in this year’s Cascade tournament championship game].

“Mikaela has become as good a defender as I’ve seen in my 35 years of coaching, and that’s both boys and girls. She’s quick, she’s strong and she’s fearless. Lowder is a lot bigger than she is, but Mikaela held her ground.”

While Simac, a 5-8 junior, was doing a defensive number on Lowder on defense, 5-9 junior Molly Webster (16 points) headed up a Gladiator offensive effort that saw nine players put points on the scoreboard. Webster was 7-of-11 from the field, and she hit two 3-pointers.

Simac led the Gladiators on defense with five steals, and she also claimed seven rebounds.

Alicia Feb, a 5-9 junior forward, claimed eight rebounds to head up the Gladiator effort on the glass. Feb also had three blocked shots.

With the score tied at 21 at halftime, the Gladiators put Elmira away in the third period, when they outscored the Falcons 21-12.

“We came out with a vengeance with a strong third quarter for the fourth game in a row,” said Scott. “We ratcheted up the defensive intensity and did a better job defending against their inside game.... It’s like night and day from a year ago, when third quarters were our bugaboo. We’ve matured. This year, in the third quarters, we’re like a veteran team....”

Junior guard Melisa Campos and senior guard Fiona Burrell headed the third quarter assault in the Elmira game, scoring eight and seven points respectively in the stanza. Campos hit two treys in the pivotal quarter.

Webster (14 points) and Campos (10 points) headed up a Gladiator offense that saw eight players contribute points to the winning tally.

Simac came through with a team-leading six steals. She also scored nine points and made three assists.

“We had nine kids score against Cascade and eight kids score against Elmira, while those two teams only had five kids score,” said Scott. “It’s a tribute to our depth.”

The pair of wins at Cascade put the Gladiators at 6-2 on the 2013-14 season, their only losses coming in early December games with fifth-ranked Philomath (58-51) and third-ranked Mazama (46-28).

Scott says that his Gladiators have been successful this season because of unselfish team play.

“Some of our turnovers are because these girls are unselfish to a fault,” Scott said. “But I like that. These girls like each other and they play together.”

The Gladiators met their match last Friday, losing 41-35 at fifth-ranked Seaside. It was the eighth win in nine games this season for the Seagulls, who are averaging 53 points an outing.

Trailing 19-7 at halftime, the Gladiators were fighting an uphill battle all the way. Webster (10 points on 4-for-7 shooting) was the only Gladstone player in double digits in scoring. Feb was a force close to the basket, with 8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocked shots and 4 steals.

“We had 16 turnovers in the first half, which is uncharacteristic of us,” Scott said.

Seaside was led by 5-10 guard Kaitlin Lewis, who lit up the scoreboard for 20 points.

The Gladiators (6-3) return home this Thursday, when they play host to Lebanon, a team ranked No. 4 in Class 5A.

“Our three losses were to teams ranked No. 3, No. 4 and No. 7 in the state in the current OSAA power rankings,” said Scott. “And we gave two of those teams a real good game.”

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