The difference in the 1A girls basketball state title game was simple: Shots fell for the St. Paul Buckaroos, but not for the Powder Valley Badgers.

St. Paul shot 50 percent in the first half to build a double-digit lead, and 43 percent for the game, to top Powder Valley, 49-32, Saturday night in Baker City.

“We just couldn’t get anything to drop, especially early,” Powder Valley Head Coach Allen Bingham said. “We had really good looks — things that normally drop down — and they just didn’t. We dug ourselves a hole.”

The Badgers had several opportunities around the rim bound away, rim off or even rattle out during a first half that saw them shoot just 21 percent. Powder Valley, in fact, went more than half of the first quarter without scoring until Logan Nedrow’s steal and layup got the Badgers on the board. Belle Blair’s 3-point play moments later knotted the score at 5-5, and Megan Bingham beat the first-quarter buzzer with a 3-pointer to keep the Badgers within 9-8.

But the Buckaroos heated up in the second quarter, using a 14-2 run to take control of the game. Erin Counts and Karlee Southerland hit back-to-back 3-pointers for a 17-9 lead, and two Counts free throws put St. Paul ahead 25-11 late in the second. The Buckaroos shot
64 percent in the period.

The Badgers cut the gap to 27-15 at halftime, and three times inched as close as 10 points in the third, the last on a Bingham 3-pointer to get to 32-22. A 9-0 Buckaroos’ run, though, boosted by 3s from Counts and Isabelle Wyss, extended the margin to 41-22 early in the fourth and put the game out of reach.

“I think we were a little nervous,” said Megan Bingham, who along with Blair scored 10 points to lead the Badgers. “It was an exciting environment. I think we were ready to play, but it just wasn’t falling tonight.”

Counts scored 14 points to lead St. Paul, which wrapped up a perfect 30-0 season. Wyss had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Emma Connor scored 10 points.

While disappointed about the title game setback, Badgers’ players and coaches said they were proud of the effort that got the team to the championship game — the first time the program reached the finals since winning it all in 2006.

“This doesn’t happen very often, that you’re in the title game, even if you get beat,” Allen Bingham said. “I told them there aren’t very many second place trophies or first place trophies. (We’re) pretty fortunate to have the opportunity to do it.”

The run to the final came in a season that, at the start, many believed could have been a down year after the team lost four seniors off last year’s third-place squad.

“No one really thought we were going to get this far,” Blair said, adding later that it was “a big thing” to be playing in the championship.

“Second in state is pretty good. I’m happy with it,” she said.

It was the second time in four months St. Paul and Powder Valley met in a championship, with the teams facing off in volleyball in November, a title match also won by the Buckaroos.

Megan Bingham said the expectations during volleyball were different — and higher — than in basketball.

“In volleyball we were expecting ourselves to get that far. We knew that we were good and that we could go super far, but in basketball we lost four or five huge players, and we were like, ‘This year is going to be a rebuilding year,’” she said. “I think toward the end of the year we surprised ourselves. We were glad we made it this far.”

The team’s growth, particularly on the defensive side, was one of the keys to making the unexpected deep run and a 26-4 final record — 25-0, in fact, in games where Powder Valley allowed 40 points or less.

“I thought we could be a good competitive team and have a chance to make a run, but to get to the title game (considering) the competition that is around the state (means) we developed as a team really well,” Allen Bingham said. “They bought into that defense and just won us a lot of basketball games.”

On Friday the Powder Valley Badgers overcame three sluggish quarters and double-digit second-half deficit to escape an upset bid and defeated the Perrydale
Pirates, 46-37, in the 1A state semifinals at Baker High School.

The Badgers scored just two first quarter points, were down as much as 12 points in the first half and, despite cutting the margin to two by halftime, saw the Pirates go back up 31-21 midway through the third quarter on an Amity Deters free throw. They still trailed 35-27 late in the third after a Deters layup, but then stormed back, finishing the game on a 19-2 run.

“We were able to wear Perrydale down enough to where we got a few steals and some layups,” Allen Bingham said. “Anytime you can get those kind of baskets, you get a lot of momentum (and) it energizes the players.”

Nedrow’s 3-pointer trimmed the deficit to 35-30 after three quarters, and a jumper and 3-pointer by Megan Bingham gave the Badgers their first lead, 36-35, with 5:26 to play in the game. Two Shelby Sieckman free throws and a jumper by Blair extended the margin to five, and Powder Valley iced the win by connecting on six free throws in the final 1:41. The Badgers held the Pirates to just two free throws in the last nine minutes of the game.

“We hit a couple shots, and once we started getting momentum our defense picked up and we started getting more intense, and we rolled from there,” Megan Bingham said.

Bingham finished with a game-high 21 points, 11 of which came in the second half. Blair added nine points, 10 rebounds and three steals.

Sydney Lawrence led Perrydale, which shot just 21 percent in the second half, with 11 points and nine