No. 1 Sutherlin lives up to top billing with 76-40 victory

The train that is the Sutherlin girls basketball team rolled into the heart of the Class 4A state playoffs this weekend, this time at the expense of the Madras White Buffalos.

The top-ranked and unbeaten Bulldogs let everyone in Central Oregon know just how good they really are Friday night, pounding Madras 76-40 to advance to Gill Coliseum for this week’s final leg of the playoffs. With the loss, the Buffs saw their season end at 16-10 and a win short of one of their biggest goals.

“They are good. That is probably the best team we’ve seen all year,” Madras co-coach Zach Lillebo said. “They hit a lot of their shots. It was tough for us to go on the road (against that).”

Knowing they would have to play an almost perfect game to have a chance, the Buffs fell behind early and could never recover. Sutherlin raced out to a 24-7 first-quarter lead and effectively put the game away by the half, leading 37-12.

“Well, our shots were not falling, obviously,” Lillebo said of his team. “They are a good ball club, very consistent and very well rounded. And they can score a lot of points.”

Olivia Gulliford paced the Bulldogs with 17 points, while Sutherlin, now 24-0, had seven players score at least seven points. Mariah Stacona match Gulliford’s 17 but only Vanessa Esquivel and Leah Suppah managed to score more than three points for Madras.

Despite the loss, Lillebo said he was pleased with the way the girls fought and never gave up. Down 25 at the break, Madras played better the second half, just like they had done all season long despite all the distractions that came with the season.

“I would say it was a great season. For the girls to come and play through everything they faced, they played as a team,” Lillebo, who coached the team along with Rory Oster, said. “They learned more than just basketball this season. They grew as individuals and as players.”

Now the task is to start preparing for next season.

First up is finding a permanent coach to guide a team that had no upperclassmen on it — every member of the varsity squad will return.

“They are all coming back, so we will get to work right away,” Lillebo said.

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