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The La Grande girls basketball team consoles one another after Friday’s 10-point loss to Mazama in the title game of Class 4A girls state basketball tournament in Corvallis. CASEY KELLAS/The Observer
Emotions abound as La Grande stumbles in state championship game loss to Mazama
by CASEY KELLAS / The Observer
CORVALLIS — Playing in a state title game can be a bittersweet feeling. For as good as the taste of victory can be, the heart-wrenching feeling of defeat can be even worse.
That’s what the La Grande girls basketball team had to go through this weekend in Corvallis. The Lady Tigers had a joyous run to the 4A state title game, only to come up short of the end goal in a 10-point loss to Mazama on Friday.
There were a lot of emotions floating around after Friday’s loss, but both players and coaches realized the game and season were special moments both personally and for La Grande.
“I’m kind of heartbroken,” senior Breanna Partney said after the game. “But we had an amazing season. I love my team. It’s an amazing team.”
The whole week was an emotional rollercoaster for the Lady Tigers. After leading for the majority of the game in the quarterfinals against Banks, La Grande needed some late-game heroics and a little luck to hold off the Braves.
Then in the semifinals, the Lady Tigers had enough to hand Sutherlin its first loss of the season to secure a spot in Friday’s championship.
Against a Vikings team who had won its two games in Corvallis by a combined 54 points, LHS gave it its all but just ran out of steam in the final minutes.
“It’s mind games with yourself,” Partney said of the ups and downs. “But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Along with Partney, the game also marked the final high school contest for seniors Denise Comfort, Lauren Mills and Madison Elliott.
The quartet has been a staple of the team’s success the previous four seasons.
“It’s tough knowing that’s my last game ever,” Comfort said. “At the start of the year we were struggling a little and no one thought we would make it here, and we did.”
All four players said that the run to the title game was more than just basketball. It was also a positive note for the La Grande community in general.
“I can really only think of one thing, and that’s all the support that we’ve gotten from our community,” Mills said. “From what we’ve heard we’ve made our community proud. And that makes me happy. It’s a loss, but with all of the recent events at our high school, it feels good to get a win and to hear people in the community say that we brought them together.”
Head coach Doug Girdner said the coaching staff tried to put things in perspective following the loss.
“(We) told them don’t regret what you don’t have,” Girdner said. “Be happy with what you have. We told them you’re going to look back on this day and you’re going to have nothing but good memories.”
The one thing that was evident among the team was that this season will be one that is not soon forgotten.
“It’s going to be definitely something I’ll remember,” Elliott said. “Just the fact that we were here.”
Girdner also noted how special the season has been.
“It’s definitely the highlight of my basketball career,” he said. “And not just because of where we’re at, it’s because of who we did it with. It’s a phenomenal bunch of kids.”