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Unionís Kaci Langford drives past a North Douglas defender in the first half of the Lady Catsí 63-49 victory Saturday in the first round of the 2A state playoffs. CASEY KELLAS/The Observer
by CASEY KELLAS / The Observer
UNION — For the first time since 2007, the Union girls basketball team has advanced past the first round of the state tournament.
The Lady Cats defeated North Douglas 63-49 Saturday to advance to the quarterfinals in Pendleton, where they will take on Oakland Thursday at 3:15 p.m.
Saturday’s game pitted third-seeded Union against the sixth-seeded Warriors.
But the first half looked like two evenly-matched teams.
The game was tied at 8-all after the first quarter and sat at 17-all at halftime.
But the Lady Cats made their move in the third quarter.
After trading buckets during the first couple minutes of the third, Union used an 8-0 run to turn a 22-22 game into a 30-22 lead.
The Lady Cats held a 40-33 lead after the third quarter.
“I think we had some nerves early on,” Union head coach Tessa Nicholson said. “We’ve never been in this situation before with this group of girls, so we had to regroup. Our communication wasn’t there in the first half.
“I just told the girls they couldn’t be hesitant, and that they had to get confident with their shots.”
North Douglas hung around in the fourth quarter and got as close as four points at 46-42 after a 3-pointer at the 5:20 mark. But for every Warrior run, Union had an answer.
The Lady Cats used an 8-2 run to stretch the lead back to 10 points at 54-44 and North Douglas never recovered.
“The only thing I knew (about North Douglas) was that they were little, and they pressed like crazy,” Nicholson said.
“So that’s what we worked on all week.”
Keesha Sarman finished with a game-high 29 points for Union. She hit 15 of 16 free throws. Dani Sturm added 11 points, Sarah Good had nine and Kaci Langford chipped in six points.
Amber Fiorito scored four points, and both Chelsie Houck and Elly Wells finished with two.
Dani Baker led the Warriors with 18 points, while Bella Mast added 12 points.
The Lady Cats will now take their act to the Pendleton Convention Center on Thursday for the quarterfinals, where a date with the Oakland Oakers awaits.
Oakland defeated Knappa 36-24 Saturday in its first round contest. The Oakers are 21-4 this season and went 12-0 in the Mountain View Conference.
“I think the girls gained a lot of confidence from this,” Nicholson said of Saturday’s win.
“I thought they might have doubted a little. But getting to state was our final goal, and I think the girls are peaking. And what a great time to peak.”