Westmont’s Sage Kramer attempts a shot in the second half against Saint Martin's in a game played at Western Oregon University Saturday in Monmouth. In the background watching from the stands is her high school coach, Ben Silva, as well as friends and family. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

MONMOUTH — The venue may have been bigger and the game played much faster but Sage Kramer’s appearance with the Westmont College women’s basketball team last weekend during a two-game appearance at Western Oregon University definitely had a Philomath feel.

Familiar faces could be seen in the stands — family members, high school friends and others from the community that have supported her endeavors to excel in the sport. And sure enough, her high school coach, Ben Silva, wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see his former Philomath High star athlete in action.

If that wasn’t enough, just listen to the game’s public address announcer: “Checking in for the Warriors, Sage Kramer.”

“It’s kind of weird seeing so much of my family and friends with me here playing on my college team — it was really fun and so sweet for everybody to come,” Kramer said following Westmont’s season-opening 62-61 win Friday evening over Saint Martin’s (Washington).

Kramer, now a sophomore, was one of the game’s standouts with a performance that included the team’s final two points — a hoop that would prove to be the difference between winning and losing. Clinging to a 60-58 lead with under a minute to play, Westmont set up its offense. On a miss underneath, Kramer was in position for the offensive rebound and her putback as the shot clock expired gave Westmont a 62-58 lead with 53 seconds remaining.

Seconds later, Saint Martin’s drilled a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one. After Westmont failed to pad the lead, Saint Martin’s had a final opportunity and attempted a 3-point shot in the final few seconds that bounced off the rim.

Sage Kramer scored 11 points and had eight rebounds in Westmont’s 62-61 victory over St. Martin’s Friday in Monmouth. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

“We’re so grateful that Sage is a Westmont Warrior — we absolutely love her passion for the game, her willingness to work hard,” said coach Kirsten Moore, who traveled to Philomath from the school’s campus located just outside Santa Barbara, California, for Kramer’s signing ceremony in November 2021. “She has such a great feel to be able to put the ball in the basket.”

As a Philomath senior, Kramer averaged 23.9 points and 9.7 rebounds per game during the team’s state title season in 2021-22. She was named the Class 4A Player of the Year in 2020 and 2022 and holds the school record for most points in a game with 51. In all with the Warriors, Kramer scored 2,105 points, second-best in the school record book only to Trisha Stevens and her 2,483 points in the 1980s.

Westmont coach Kirsten Moore commenting on Sage Kramer: “Her work ethic over the summer completely just changed her body to be so fit and so much stronger.” (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Making the transition from Class 4A high school basketball to NCAA Division II basketball has been a learning experience for Kramer.

“Every possession counts,” she said. “On every possession, you have to keep your focus 100% and the defensive level is so much different. I feel like I’ve grown a lot with my defense since high school.”

Moore said she’s seen a lot of progress with Kramer’s abilities on the court.

“I think as a freshman, it was like you’re drinking out of a firehose trying to learn a whole new system,” Moore said. “But her progression from last year to this year, I think is going to just be exponential … she’s ready to step into a real leadership role for us.”

Beyond focus and defense, however, the biggest lesson of all may just be the realization that pushing one’s body to new physical limits can pay dividends. Playing for Westmont, Kramer had the appearance of an athlete in top shape.

Sage Kramer had eight boards for Westmont in the win over Saint Martin’s. The biggest came in the final minute when she scored after an offensive rebound in a tight game. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Philomath resident Rick Bennett, who has a strong connection to local athletics, worked with Kramer this past summer.

“As soon as I got back into town in May, he was coaching my brother’s team and I came to one of the games,” Kramer said. “He said he had been working with my brother (Preston) and Jacob Peters and said I could come and work with them. So I got to go and work with them in his garage and it was a difference maker, so big, he really knew what he was doing and it really helped me.”

Kramer can hold her own against anyone underneath — a benefit of lifting.

“I feel like I’m able to push people around a little bit more on the court,” she said. “And, I feel like all-around, I’m just in better shape.”

Sage Kramer said her play on defense has improved significantly from high school to college. (Photo by Andy Cripe/Philomath News)

Kramer’s head coach has seen a difference.

“Her work ethic over the summer completely just changed her body to be so fit and so much stronger,” Moore said. “I think she’s really ready to have an incredible sophomore year.”

Moore said Kramer can score at all three levels.

“She can shoot the 3, she can finish at the rim, she can shoot the mid-range shots, so I think her scoring ability is unique,” Moore said. “She can just find a way to put that ball in the basket.”

Against Saint Martin’s, Kramer shared team-high scoring honors with 11 points — nine of those coming in the first quarter — and had eight rebounds.

The following day, Western Oregon defeated Westmont 76-68 with Kramer scoring 12 points and grabbing three rebounds. Kramer had her third start Tuesday at home against Westcliff University and scored six points and had four rebounds in a 57-54 win.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.

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