Marists knocks off defending champ La Salle Prep in 5A girls final, 59-44
CORVALLIS -- Considering all the adversity that La Salle Prep's girls' basketball team endured this season, it was a bit surprising that the Falcons were one of the two teams still standing in Gill Coliseum on Friday night.
The Falcons' goal was to defy the odds once again and take down top-ranked Marist Catholic and repeat as OSAA Class 5A state champions.
That's not what happened.
Marist had answers for everything La Salle Prep threw its direction as the Spartans of Eugene rode a stellar defense and Emma McKenney's game-high 19 points to a 59-44 victory over the defending champion Falcons.
Madison Ficek added 12 points, and the Eagen sisters -- Claire and Lauren -- had a combined 12 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocked shots as the Spartans (25-3) claimed their fourth state title and first since 1999.
"I'm just so happy and delighted for our kids," Marist coach Terry Harrison said. "They worked so hard for this, and this is just a dream come true for them."
La Salle's Taycee Wedin finished with a team-high 13 points and Kylie Burg added 12 points, seven rebounds, and three assists as the Falcons ended the season at 22-5.
"Hats off to Marist," Falcons coach Kelli Wedin said. "They put together one of the best games I think they've put together all year. I thought that's what it was going to take to beat us and they did it, so credit to them. They were the better team today.
"This game doesn't define us. It doesn't take away from anything that we've done this season. It's just painful."
There were six lead changes in the first half before Ficek, Marist's junior guard, knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner with five seconds left in the half to give the Spartans a 29-25 lead at the break.
Marist then threatened to break to the game open when La Salle came away empty on its first six possessions of the third quarter and the Spartans went on a 9-0 run to take a 38-25 lead.
But the Falcons weren't finished. They chipped away behind Burg, their 5-10 sophomore, who had seven points and an assist during a 14-4 run that cut Marist's lead to 44-41 with 5:16 to play in the game.
La Salle's Emily Niebergall then grabbed a rebound off a McKenney miss and got the ball to Burg, whose 3-pointer from the left corner to tie was off the mark with 4:16 left.
Marist got the ball back and worked the clock, taking more than a minute off before McKenna Williams went to the foul line and made two free throws that extended the lead to 46-41 with 2:54 to play.
La Salle's Colby Jansen then made one of two free throws to make it 46-42, but after that the Spartans were content to play keep away, working the ball around the perimeter until the Falcons either surrendered an easy look at the basket or fouled.
"How 'bout my kids' fight?" Kelli Wedin said. "They don't give up. They're relentless and they're resilient and they've been that way all year. We've had these same situations and they'd weather the storm and they'd fight back.
"Unfortunately, a couple plays that could have changed the momentum didn't go our way, and sometimes it takes a little bit of luck on this big of a stage and we didn't have it on our side tonight."
Harrison said the key to the game for Marist was on defense and the job that Spartans' guards Maegan Cary and McKenna Williams, in particular, did as they shadowed Taycee Wedin at all times, whether she had the ball or not.
Taycee Wedin, who broke the all-time state record for career 3-pointers in the Falcons' quarterfinal win over Crater, struggled to get open looks against the Spartans, going and 5 for 18 from the field, including 3 for 8 from beyond the arc.
"We played great defense," Harrison said. "Our kids did exactly what we wanted them to. We switched everything and tried to not let Taycee get good shots. She still got us for 13, but she had to work for what she got tonight."
Kelli Wedin said it "just wasn't Taycee's day today."
"Not for lack of effort," she added. "Not for lack of competitive drive. I mean, she's dying inside. She feels responsible and that breaks my heart because we don't do any of this without her this year and what she'd faced and the adversity she's had to go through.
"She's inspiring to me and I know she is to her teammates, too. It's just tough for her to go out like this."
After last season's championship run, La Salle not only lost three-time 5A Player of the Year Aleah Goodman to graduation, but they also saw two other starters transfer out, and then saw both of the coach's daughters – senior Taycee Wedin and freshman Addison Wedin – undergo off-season knee surgery for torn ACLs.
Forced to redefine themselves, the Falcons made "D.T.O -- Defy the Odds" their rallying cry as they went undefeated through the Northwest Oregon Conference for the fourth season in a row and scored consecutive playoff wins over Corvallis, Crater, and Bend to set up Friday's showdown with Marist.
"Obviously, it wasn't the result we wanted, but I wouldn't have wanted to have this journey with any other team," Burg said. "They're the best teammates I've ever had and finishing second is still a big accomplishment.
"Nobody thought we could do the things we did, and we proved everybody wrong. We made it here and that's what's important."
Friday's game also was the final high school game for La Salle seniors Colby Jansen, Megan Lyver, Lyndsay Riehl, Hannah Sisul, and Taycee Wedin.
"We're obviously disappointed, but we've worked incredibly hard these last four months and we know we gave it everything we could," said Jansen, who had seven points and three rebounds in the finale. "I'm just incredibly proud of my 10 other teammates that just gave everything they could.
"Marist is incredibly talented. I just think they came ready to work and they just outworked us today."
Taycee Wedin and Niebergall were both named to the all-tournament first team along with McKenney of Marist, Maggie Roth of Silverton, and Cali McClave of Crescent Valley.
"I know in the first half we were hanging our heads a little bit, but we talked at halftime and we came back the second half," Taycee Wedin said. "We had some slip-ups, for sure, but we gave it everything we had in the second half.
"Right now, obviously, I'm disappointed. But nobody expected us to get this far under the circumstances we faced. Nothing was in our favor, but, honestly, I'm so proud of my team for making it this far. And we gave it everything we had."