Bobcats return to state tourney

By Paul Harder, The Observer March 03, 2014 09:34 am

UNION — Great players can seemingly win a basketball game on their own. More often than not, they need some help.

The Union girls basketball team has Keesha Sarman. Oakland has Cora Gallop. Both can score at will and have the ability to take over a game. However, Sarman received more assistance during the Class 2A state play-in game Friday in Union.

The Bobcats leaned on Sarman in the beginning of a 75-45 win. After an initial burst, a personal 7-0 run by Sarman, everyone started getting involved.

“That’s kind of our game plan,” Union head coach Rhondie Johansen said. “We like to jump out quick. It was pretty intense with this gym being as packed and as loud as it was. So, to be able to take a little breath in the beginning was nice. It settles us into our game plan a little more. Keesha is just a great athlete, what do you do.

“Cora is a class act. She’s an amazing athlete, and (Oakland’s) go-to player. As hard as she plays it was amazing to look up in the third quarter and see she only had two fouls. Cora is a tough person to stop because she can do a lot of things.”

Oakland bounced back after the initial surge to pull back within three points, 9-6, with a basket by Gallop. 

Sarman put the bookend on the first quarter with steal that turned into a lay-in. Plus, the junior was fouled on the play, and Sarman drilled the free throw. That pushed the lead into double figures, 19-8. 

Sarman had 12 points in the quarter, and had 19 by halftime. She ended the night with 31 points, six rebounds and six assists. The most impressive feat of the night was Sarman’s conversion of old fashioned 3-point plays. 

“I’m not afraid to go into the paint,” Sarman said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s on offense or defense.” 

Gallop had 11 points at the half, and she would finish with a team-high 29. But, her teammates weren’t helping out as much as the rest of the Bobcats roster was helping Sarman. 

Sarah Good came out firing in the third quarter, scoring 10 of her 15 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Carsyn Roberts and Delanie Kohr spread out their production a little more. Roberts finished with nine points, while Kohr finished with eight points. 

Good helped cap a 10-2 run to open the third quarter that gave Union a 50-22 lead. 

“In any moment of the game we can have someone step up and help out,” Johansen said. “That’s what makes us a solid team. “I told the girls before the game that team’s peak, and I think we’re peaking at the right time.”

Time and time again for the Oakers, the only answer was Gallop. The 5-foot-10 forward created mismatch problems for the Bobcats anywhere on the court. However, the second leading scorer for Oakland had six points — Mariah Young. Oakland only had five field goals that were from someone other than Gallop. 

A large part of it according to Johansen was that the Oakers other players had to take contested shots.

“I’ve got a group of girls that love to play defense,” Johansen said. “We pride ourselves on our defense, and it’s kept our opponents in check all season long. We did a great job on closing out to prevent (Oakland’s) open looks.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the effort and heart the girls play with on the court,” Johansen said. “They step on the court with a mission. From the tip of the ball, you can see we have a mission in mind and they go after it.”

The win sends Union back to Pendleton where the final eight teams to face off the state title. Last season the Bobcats came home with a second-place trophy, losing to 60-48 loss to Regis. Union opens the tournament against Western Mennonite at 6 p.m. Thursday. Western Mennonite defeated Bonanza 60-23 to advance to Pendleton.