The top-ranked St. Paul Buckaroos girls basketball team got the best of the Joseph Eagles for the second time this season.
The Buckaroos took a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter, then held off a last-ditch rally by Joseph for a 42-37 win Thursday in the quarterfinals of the 1A state tournament in Baker City.
“Lots of credit to St. Paul for sure,” Joseph Head Coach Lance Homan said. “There’s nothing (for my team) to hang their heads (about).
“You never like to lose, but at the same time if you do lose, knowing you left it out there (is) what matters.”
A 7-0 run to start the second half gave St. Paul its largest lead at 30-18, and the Buckaroos still led 35-23 entering the fourth before Joseph closed in.
A 3-point play by Emma Hite, who led all scorers with 17 points, pulled Joseph within 37-29. Hite then followed with a layup and two free throws to trim the deficit to 37-33, and Joseph was within 37-35 after a Madelyn Nelson free throw with 3:27 to play.
But Karlee Southerland connected on a trey on the ensuing possession to push the margin back to five with just over three minutes to go. Hite scored with 2:26 to play to get the margin back to three, but the Eagles didn’t score again.
“I can’t be any prouder of how they decided they were going to try to (rally and) win it,” Homan said of his team’s comeback attempt.
Hite scored 10 of her points in the fourth quarter, with Homan saying the senior took over.
“She played phenomenal,” he said. “She willed us back into the game by herself. There’s a reason she’s a leader. They all stepped it up for sure. Offensively Emma took over when we were down.”
The Eagles didn’t score for nearly four minutes at the start before Haley Miller got Joseph on the board with two free throws. Hite gave Joseph a brief 7-6 lead with a jumper with about three minutes to play in the first quarter, and she hit a 3-pointer early in the second to give Joseph its only other lead at 12-10.
The Eagles struggled from the floor, shooting just 29 percent (12-for-42) while St. Paul hit at a 50-percent clip (17-for-34).
Homan said Joseph “had good looks and didn’t finish.”
The Eagles were also outrebounded by what Homan said was a bigger St. Paul team, 36-22. Joseph, though, did force 24 turnovers and scored 15 points off those turnovers.
Hite was the only Eagle in double figures. Sabrina Albee added eight points and Haley Miller scored six.
Isabelle Wyss had 13 points, all in the first half, for St. Paul, while Emma Connor had nine points and 10 rebounds.
It was the second meeting between the teams this season. St. Paul won in a January matchup, 40-32, in Dufur after trailing entering the fourth quarter, 24-21.
The win sent the undefeated Buckaroos (28-0 overall) into a semifinal matchup tonight against Damascus Christian, while Joseph (25-4) dropped into the consolation bracket and a matchup this morning against Days Creek.
“They’re focused still,” Homan said of his team’s mindset after being eliminated from title contention. “You never want to lose, but they came to do a job. They’ll be ready.”