The Joseph Eagles girls basketball team entered the state tournament with high expectations — but the season didn’t end as the team hoped.
The Crane Mustangs used a 21-4 run during the third and fourth quarters to turn a close game into a blowout and hand Joseph its worst loss of the season, 49-30, Saturday morning in the fourth-place game of the 1A state tournament in Baker City.
“They shot extremely well,” Joseph Head Coach Lance Homan said of Crane. “They’re a good basketball team, and they’re only going to get better. They made shots, their energy was better than ours (and) they outworked us.
The loss dropped the Eagles, who were ranked No. 2 in the state much of the season, to a sixth-place finish.
“It wasn’t how we wanted it (to end), definitely, but it is what it is, and we left it all out on the court,” said Haley Miller, one of Joseph’s four seniors. “It was a good, hard-fought game. Crane played really well.”
The Eagles struggled from the floor throughout the contest Saturday, going 10-for-55 for 18 percent, and 4-for-26 in the first half.
Yet Joseph pulled within 24-20 early in the third quarter after a pair of jumpers by Miller to open the second half.
That’s when Crane began to distance itself.
The Mustangs scored the final 12 points of the third quarter to build what at the time was its largest lead of the game. Riley Davis, who had nine points and 17 rebounds, scored on a nice move in the low post for a 30-20 lead, and a layup by Elizabeth Jenkins to end the third pushed the margin to 36-20.
A layup by Camille Crenshaw and a steal and layup by Emma Hite early in the fourth brought Joseph within 12 before the Mustangs put the game away, extending the margin to 45-24 on a Shelie Doman jumper with about 3:30 remaining and as much as 49-27 in the closing minutes.
“It was tough and emotional since it was our last game,” Joseph sophomore Sabrina Albee said.
The game was a stark contrast to when the teams met in the second game of the season, a 44-28 home win by the Eagles.
Joseph never led Saturday, struggling to get shots to fall while seemingly everything Crane attempted went in. The Mustangs shot 44 percent in the first half and scored the final five points of the second quarter to take a 24-16 lead at the break.
The Mustangs also held a decisive rebound advantage, boosted by Davis’ 17 boards and Kelsie Siegner’s 12 rebounds. Siegner was also the game’s leading scorer as she finished with 20 points.
Miller led the Eagles with 15 points, 10 of which came in the second half. Albee added nine points, all in the first half. Albee also had a team-best six rebounds.
“It (was) a good season. They made it here and they did well. When we started this journey our goal — because we didn’t know where we were going to be after losing Alexis (Sykora to graduation last year) — was to get to the state tournament.”
The Eagles, who finished at 26-5, not only met that initial goal of reaching state, but saw their hopes change as the season progressed and they kept winning.
“We came in with the expectation of winning (state), and I think we legitimately could have,” Homan said. “It’s a tough way to end, but I couldn’t be any more proud of our kids.”
Added Miller: “We’re not a team. We’re a family, and I think that’s the most important thing to ever have in a sport. We’re really tight. It’ll be really hard (to leave).”
On Friday, the Eagles found their touch as they recovered from a quarterfinal loss to St. Paul to pull away from the Days Creek Wolves for a 58-41 win behind a huge game from Albee, who poured in 31 points.
“Our momentum was up, we worked really hard and our press was definitely working,” said Albee, who scored 23 of her points in the first half — including Joseph’s final seven — to help the Eagles build a 36-28 halftime lead.
But the Eagles, who forced Days Creek into 32 turnovers, didn’t pull away until the second half.
Two free throws and a layup by Madelyn Nelson and a jumper by Crenshaw boosted Joseph’s lead to its largest at the time of 44-28 midway through the third quarter. A layup by Albee in the fourth pushed the margin to 15 points, and after Days Creek closed to within 11, Ella Coughlan’s jumper with 2:17 to play started an 8-0 run to put the game out of hand.
“They played well,” Homan said. “They took care of the ball (Friday). That was more of what we wanted to see, for sure. And Sabrina, once she gets it going, can fill it up as good as anybody in the state.”
Albee, who shot 12-for-26 in the game, was 10-for-17 in the first half. As a team the Eagles shot 44 percent in the opening half, and 37 percent for the game. They held the Wolves to 31 percent overall, and 22 percent in the second half.
Nelson finished with 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds, while both Miller and Crenshaw scored six points.