ENTERPRISE MARCHES ON
This is what high school basketball is all about.
A gym packed to the rafters with energized fans. A great school band sending chills up and down your spine. Two teams battling for their playoff lives. It was Wallowa County's version of "Hoosiers."
Enterprise hosted Portland Lutheran, a team that traveled 360 miles for a first-round game in the Class 2A girls state playoffs Wednesday evening.
The Bluejays left their legs on the bus, as Enterprise sprinted to a 22-2 lead. But Portland Lutheran, the third seed from the Northwest League, made a game of it and Enterprise had to pull away in the final minutes to an entertaining 69-60 victory.
Enterprise is on the road for a much shorter trip to Athena for a Saturday match-up with second-ranked Weston-McEwen. Game time is 6 p.m.
The winner becomes part of the elite 8, earning a trip to the remainder of the OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires State Championships March 3-5 in Pendleton.
Portland Lutheran was shell-shocked early, going nearly six minutes before scoring a field goal. But once super sophomore guard Cheryl Burris and her teammates got going, Enterprise had to keep working hard to hold onto the lead.
"I figured it was one of those things that they were coming into an environment that was hostile, and we needed to get going," Enterprise head coach Mike Crawford said of the fast start.
"We executed the ball really well and we ran our fast break exactly how we know how to do," said Enterprise senior Kayla Stoffel, who led EHS with 26 points. "We just came out on fire."
The Bluejays used a 17-0 run, taking advantage of EHS turnovers to close the deficit to 22-19 early in the second period.
"The problem is that we just let down too much. We took it for granted a little," Crawford said. "Fortunately every time they made a rally we responded."
Burris was a nightmare for the EHS defense, penetrating the home team's defense often. Burris finished with 33 points.
Enterprise responded, and a Hadden putback gave EHS a 41-26 halftime lead.
Enterprise was without Madi Smith in the second half. She sprained an ankle with 5:39 to go before halftime. EHS had already lost point guard Jessie Morgan, who is out with a broken ankle.
Portland Lutheran outscored Enterprise 22-8 in the third period to trail by only one, 49-48, with a period to play.
"They had two tremendous guards that really put pressure on us in the middle of our defense all night long," Crawford said of Burris and Faven Araya.
"They're kind of a one-on-one team," Stoffel said of the Bluejays. "We're not used to that kind of ball."
Leading by only five with three minutes remaining, Enterprise took over. Stoffel sank two free throws, then Hadden went to the lane and bounced a perfect pass to Stoffel for a field goal that gave EHS a 63-55 cushion with 2:23 to go.
Hadden came up big again moments later, tipping a rebound to a teammate. After a little clock management, Stoffel scored on a nifty pass from Vernarsky to seal the deal.
"The only thing we had to do the whole ball game was to take a little time on offense," Crawford said. "Every time that we slowed down and executed we got good shots, good scores."
Burris had only four points in the final period.
Portland Lutheran could have made it more interesting down the stretch, but was just 10-for-26 from the free-throw line. EHS sank 11 of 14 foul shots.
Hadden had 14 points for Enterprise. Vernarsky and Chelcee Noland added eight each, and Krista Stangel contributed seven.
Crawford agreed that Vernarsky played a key role with Smith on the bench.
Scores of other 2A girls first-round games Wednesday: Knappa 37, East Linn Christian 31; Kennedy 34, Santiam Christian 27; Sherman 77, Grant Union 54; Gold Beach 51, Lakeview 46; Glendale 54, Catlin Gabel 28; Heppner 56, Oakridge 46; and Blanchet 62, North Douglas 33.
PORTLAND LUTHERAN (60)
Le Brun 4 0-0 8, Jacoy 2 2-4 6, Araya 3 5-9 11, Burris 15 3-9 33, Knoke 0 0-0 0, Fish 0 0-0 0, Yu 0 0-0 0, Birnstein 1 0-4 2, Meier 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 10-26 60.
Stangel 2 2-2 7, Noland 4 0-0 8, Maasdam 0 0-0 0, Vernarsky 3 2-2 8, Stoffel 9 7-9 26, Huffman 0 0-0 0, Smith 1 0-0 2, Haden 7 0-1 14, Freels 1 0-0 2, Anderson 0 0-0 0, Kelley 0 0-0 0, Britton 1 0-0 2. Totals 28 11-14 69.
Portland Lutheran 13 13 22 12 60
Enterprise 22 19 8 20 69
3-point goals: Stangel, Stoffel. Total fouls: PL 13, Enterprise 19. Fouled out: none.