Lady Cats claw into semis with Heppner

March 01, 2013 08:04 am

Sarah Good of Union looks for an opening in the Oakland defense Thursday in the 2A state tourney. CASEY KELLAS/The Observer
Sarah Good of Union looks for an opening in the Oakland defense Thursday in the 2A state tourney. CASEY KELLAS/The Observer

by CASEY KELLAS / The Observer 

Union battles Heppner today for berth in 2A finals Saturday 

PENDLETON —The Union girls basketball team is in the state semifinals.

The Lady Cats parlayed a fast start into a 38-29 victory over Oakland Thursday in the quarterfinals of the 2A state playoffs at the Pendleton Convention Center. 

“We struggled a little bit, but I’m happy with the W,” Union head coach Tessa Nicholson said. “I think they did a great job.”

Union’s Keesha Sarman came up with a pair of steals that she turned into four points, followed by an Amber Fiorito lay-in to make it a 6-0 lead.

The Oakers cut it to 6-5 before the Lady Cats reeled off five straight points to lead 11-5 after the first quarter.

“That was huge,” Nicholson said of the quick start. 

“Obviously Sarman knew she had to take it to the hole. The girls knew they were a huge asset offensively and they have to be ready for that ball, because (Keesha) will dish it to them.”

Union carried that momentum over into the second quarter where it stretched the lead to 13-7 before taking a 20-11 lead into halftime.

“We just wanted to come out and keep our head in the game and give it all we got,” Sarman said.

Union got the lead to 15 points at 26-11 in the third quarter, but that’s when the Oakers started to come alive.

A pair of free throws by Jesse Herbert at the 4:37 mark were Oakland’s first of the quarter, but they sparked a rally that the team used to get within six at 26-20 heading to the fourth.

“I’m not gonna lie, I was worried,” Nicholson said when the Oakers chipped into the lead. 

“But I have faith and I know that I can get inside and get their hearts to show out there.”

Oakland got as close as five points at 28-23 with 4:30 to go in the fourth, but Union had an answer for every Oaker move.

The Lady Cats closed the game on a 10-6 run to advance to today’s semifinal game against Blue Mountain Conference rival Heppner.

“It feels incredible. It’s like no other feeling,” said Sarman, who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Fiorito added eight points, while Dani Sturm had seven points and five rebounds. Kaci Langford scored six points.

Brooke Spencer led Oakland with 18 points, while Herbert had five points and five rebounds.

Union shot 48 percent (18-37) for the game, while Oakland hit just 13.6 percent (6-44).

That sets up a rematch with the Mustangs, who the Lady Cats beat two of three times this season.

“Heppner was very impressive (Thursday),” Nicholson said of the Mustangs 57-46 win over Lost River. “I think it will be an extremely good battle. I hope we come out on top.”

The game tips off at 1:30 p.m.