Unionís Keesha Sarman drives to the basket against Pilot Rock. The Rockets defeated Union 56-49 in the last meeting. (NANCY CAMPBELL photo)
Union head coach Rhondie Johansen is excited to see how far her team has come since the first half of the basketball season. The No. 6 Bobcats will get a good measuring-stick game against Pilot Rock Friday night.
The Rockets are No. 3 in the OSAA state ranking with a 15-3 overall record and are on top of the Blue Mountain Conference with a 9-1 record.
“They are there for a reason,” Johansen said. “They’re a good team. (Pilot Rock) does what good teams do — play good defense and score.”
The Rockets average 47 points per game this season, while allowing 37 points per game. Pilot Rock has won 14 of its last 15 games, and has won four straight games. The loss, 46-45, came at the hands of Weston-McEwen.
Union is hoping that the third time will be the charm against the Rockets.
The two teams met in a non-conference game at theLa Grande Optimist Christmas Classic Dec. 27. The Rockets got the better of the encounter during a 54-47 win.
Union fell at home in a conference game 56-49 Jan. 3.
The Bobcats were in the game, and leading in the fourth quarter when junior point guard Keesha Sarman fouled out. With Sarman on the bench, Pilot Rock took over the game.
What Sarman is for Union, Madison Dave is for the Rockets — the go-to scoring option.
Dave scored 33 points in the first meeting between the two teams, but was held to 13 points in the following game.
“She’s an excellent scorer,” Johansen said. “You have to know where she is at all times. Madison can score in the paint, and from the outside. She has a nose for the ball.
“We have to box out better and play her tough. But, you have to remember they have other scoring options too.”
As any good coach, Johansen is more focused on her own team than the opponent. Union is adjusting to a slightly different system this season, Johansen’s first as head coach. But, the focus is the same — playing great defense.
“We’re working a lot on the details this week,” Johansen said. “We need to always get better on the things that we do. Teams are going to make adjustments. You don’t always know what they’re going to be. So, we choose to focus on what we can do better.
“Defensively, I think we’re playing better than we have all season. The girls are communicating well on the floor. That’s always going to be the key to our success.”
Union is 15-2 this season, and 8-1 in conference play. The Bobcats have won eight straight games, with the closest game an eight point win against Weston-McEwen. With the home game against the Rockets out of the way, Union will have to get the first win against them on the road.
“It doesn’t matter where you play, you have to execute your game. The girls are doing a much better job at doing that. I couldn’t be more proud of the way that everyone is playing. All 11 girls are contributing to the success of the team.
“Some have seen their roles grow from last season. It’s not always an easy adjustment. But I think that all of them are getting more comfortable with what we need them to do.”
Union knows what it will get from Sarman. But it’s the effort of the other 10 girls on the team that will determine the outcome Friday night. Tipoff is set for