PENDLETON — For much of the first half Thursday, the Union Bobcats appeared rattled, shaken by the pressure of being in the program’s first state quarterfinal game since 2015.
“I think we had those big-game jitters a little bit,” senior Taylar Daggett said.
They looked like a much different team after the break.
Daggett, Callie Glenn and Kylie Marriott each scored 12 points, and Union quickly erased a seven-point halftime deficit and dominated after the break for a 45-35 win over Portland Christian at Pendleton High School to reach the state semifinals.
“It was bumpy,” head coach Rhondie Rickman-Johansen said of the first half. “We went in at halftime, made a few adjustments, asked them to do things differently.... Just talked to them, and told them that second half needed to be our game. We let their defense dictate our offense, and we needed to take control of the game. And you know, I got a team that responds. We were our team in the second half, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
Union, which trailed 23-16 at the break, found its offensive touch after a first half that saw it shoot just 23% and erased the deficit in less than two minutes.
“These girls have a real fight in them and a no-quit attitude,” Rickman-Johansen said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been down in the third quarter by that many points. It was awesome to see them react to that and come out fighting and just take control in the second (half).”
Daggett, who had nine of her points in the third quarter, hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to help the Bobcats quickly cut the margin to 25-24, and two free throws from Glenn put the Bobcats up for good, 26-25, with 6:05 to play in the third.
Marriott pointed to Daggett’s hot start in the third as a key component to the turnaround.
“Taylar started us off, we fed off of her, and it kept going,” said Marriott, who added 10 rebounds to post a double-double.
Marriott hit a short jumper to push the lead to three just over 90 seconds after Glenn put the Bobcats ahead, and a tough 3-point play by Audrey Wells on a left-handed drive to the rim with 3:23 to play gave the Bobcats a 31-26 lead. Daggett’s layup off an inbounds pass from Brianna Kohr with 22.8 seconds to play gave Union its largest lead of the third at 34-26, and the Bobcats went into the fourth up by six.
Portland Christian twice cut the margin to three in the early stages of the fourth on a pair of baskets from Journie Conard — once on a coast-to-coast drive to the rim and once on a challenging shot that made it 36-33 with 4:42 to go.
Marriott and the Bobcats then put the game on ice.
The junior corralled a loose ball and scored underneath to start a decisive 9-0 run, then two possessions later found Glenn for a drive and a basket for a 40-33 lead. She later added a putback and then scored off a feed from Glenn for the largest lead of the game, 45-33, with about 95 seconds to play.
“We just really came together as a team,” said Daggett, who hit all three of Union’s 3-pointers on the night. “We started working and gelling together. We got the ball inside and when the shot wasn't there we would kick it out to our shooters, and then our shooters started hitting.”
The Bobcats also clamped down on defense, holding the Royals to 12 points on 5-of-24 shooting in the second half, and just 25% for the game.
Neither team gained much advantage during a tight, tense first 13 minutes that saw a two-point margin as the largest lead taken by either team.
The last three minutes of the second quarter, though, belonged to Portland Christian — and, in particular, to senior Madeline DeLucia. Her 3-pointer with 2:39 to play put the Royals ahead 19-16, which at the time was the largest lead of the game. She then found Leah Zallee for a layup that extended the lead to five, and Conard had a fastbreak layup that put PC ahead at the break 23-16. DeLucia, who also took over on the glass late in the first half, had 10 points and nine rebounds by the break.
DeLucia finished with 11 points and 10 boards, and Conard led the Royals with 13 points. But PC was outrebounded by Union 48-33, and 26-15 in the second half, largely due to the hustle on the boards by Marriott, who had nine of her 10 rebounds in the second half and five on the offensive end.
“I just knew we had to get second opportunities for our team and our shooters, that's what we were going to do to win the game,” she said.
Added Rickman-Johansen of Marriott: “She is not very tall, but she plays way over her head. She's got the biggest passion and drive and heart, and she's gonna get those boards.”
Union (25-3 overall), which won it’s 15th game in a row, meets Monroe at 3:15 p.m. Friday in the semifinals at the Pendleton Convention Center, seeking its first title-game berth since 2013.