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Unionís Keesha Sarman made her case for Oregonís 2A player of the year at the state tournament in Pendleton, where she set a tournament record with 37 points in the semifinal victory over Heppner.
Union’s Sarman earns 2A player of the year
by CASEY KELLAS / The Observer
In just two seasons, Keesha Sarman has put herself among the greats at Union High School.
The sophomore is a two-time Blue Mountain Conference basketball player of the year, and now she has one more award to add to the resume
She is the 2A state girls basketball player of the year.
“It’s crazy,” Sarman said of the honor. “I’m happy, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet. It means a lot. It was a goal of mine.”
Sarman backed up an impressive freshman campaign (15.2 points per game and 10 rebounds per game) with a even better sophomore season.
She averaged 20.8 points (605 total points) per game, pulled down 8.3 rebounds and had 5.5 steals. She scored more than 20 points in 16 games and finished in double figures in 26 of the Lady Cats’ 29 contests.
“Our team didn’t really change much from last season. So everything just clicked more for me this year,” Sarman said. “The more we played together, the better we got. So it just clicked.”
Sarman’s coach, Tessa Nicholson, said her young player had a better feel for things on the court this season.
“She was stronger, faster and smarter this year,” Nicholson said. “She did a better job of understanding the court and she was able to distribute the ball more accurately.”
Sarman led the Lady Cats to an 18-7 record overall and a 12-4 mark in the BMC. She scored 29 points to lead Union to a victory over North Douglas in the first round of the state tournament. The win sent the Lady Cats to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007.
It was at the state tournament in Pendleton where Sarman really introduced herself to the rest of the state.
She had 17 points and 10 rebounds in the quarterfinal victory over Oakland, then torched the tournament- scoring record with 37 points in a win over BMC rival Heppner in the semifinals.
“Keesha’s play at state was, well, phenomenal and record breaking,” Nicholson said. “After being around Keesha the past two years I knew that this was her dream, it’s in her blood.”
Sarman said the stage of playing at the state tournament brought out her best.
“I feel like I was a different player at state,” Sarman said. “You don’t want to regret anything. And knowing that if you keep winning, that championship was right there.”
Her play drew the attention of rival coaches as well.
“Keesha was phenomenal at the state tournament,” Enterprise head coach Mike Crawford said. “When you have a tournament like she did, it just puts (the whole season) together. And she’s a sophomore. That’s a scary thought.”
Sarman battled foul trouble in the state title game against Regis, but she still managed to score 18 points in 17 minutes of action, including 13 straight in the fourth quarter.
“She at times was like an energizer bunny or a robot,” Nicholson said. “She was just run ragged with no breaks, literally getting bumped, thrown and fouled, but the girl just kept going. No matter how hard she went down she always got back and had an answer. It didn’t ever surprise me but it was unbelievable. She couldn’t have done a better job at state. “
Despite Union coming up on the wrong end of a 60-48 decision to Regis in that title game, Sarman said she has every intent on getting back to that point next season.
“A state championship is my biggest dream. I just have to keep doing my best. It’s team work all the way,” Sarman said.
She added that she is going to the gym three times a week, working on improving her game for next year.
But for as good as Sarman is on the court, she is just as good off the court, according to her coach.
“Bottom line is, Keesha is such an amazing athlete and human being,” Nicholson said. “She is the best girl I know. Her parents should be proud.”