Head coach Ben Silva has said it many times — and he repeated it after Philomath High’s 69-52 victory over Henley on Friday: “There are no easy games in the state playoffs.”
Despite that 17-point margin of victory, the Warriors were fighting for their lives into the fourth quarter to nail down the win and advance to the Class 4A state tournament next week on the coast. Philomath, the top seed in the field, will play either Stayton or Mazama in the quarterfinals at 2 p.m. Thursday at Marshfield High School.
A collection of photos from Philomath High’s 69-52 victory on March 4 over Henley in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
“I’ve been on a couple of these runs as an assistant coach,” Silva said. “Sometimes you’ve got to win when you don’t feel like you played your best. I don’t know if we felt like we played our best but Henley also played very well.”
The Hornets (15-10) certainly had upset on their minds in this one. Philomath scored the game’s first six points during the opening two minutes — Hailie Couture, Sage Kramer and Abigail Brown all hitting. But by the end of the quarter, Henley had caught up with the game tied 14-14 going into the second.
The Hornets were seeing a lot of success scoring second-chance points.
“Boxing out and they were scrappy, they went to the boards really hard,” Silva said. “Undersized but they were able to get boards off it. They were able to get a lot of offensive boards early on.”
In the second quarter, the game drifted off into a shooting contest between Philomath’s Kramer and Henley’s Annie Campos. Kramer scored 13 of the Philomath’s 17 points while Campos was hitting from both the field and the foul line for nine points during those eight minutes.
Philomath (19-4) hinted at pulling away by building a nine-point lead with 5:49 left in the first half. The Warriors had opened the quarter with a 9-0 run with K, Bacho, Ingrid Hellesto, Kramer and Mia Bennett all contributing points. But Henley threw a counterpunch with a 9-2 run and trailed only 25-23 with 3:20 left in the half.
Kramer then scored six straight points with a basket inside and back-to-back hoops in transition. The eight-point lead didn’t last long, however. Henley finished the half on a 6-0 run of its own and was down only 31-29 at the break.
Campos was one of the biggest problems for Philomath’s defense with 11 points in the first half. She would end up with 22 for the game.
“The Campos girl, she’s only a sophomore, she’s tough,” Silva said about Henley’s No. 15. “She’s able to get into the paint, she has great handles … gave us a good matchup there.”
Silva said Henley’s approach on offense caused problems for the PHS defense.
“Part of that’s a little bit of what they do,” Silva said. “Their offense is only looking at one player driving and we have a little bit of a tough matchup on that because we don’t see something like that very often.”
In the third quarter, Henley took its first lead of the game, 35-34, on a basket by freshman Anna Harper. The two teams traded free throws and the Hornets were clinging to a 36-35 lead with 4:34 remaining in the quarter.
Philomath finished the third with a 14-6 run to take a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter. The Warriors scored 12 points in the final 3:17 of the quarter. Three-pointers were falling for the home team with Reagan Larson, Kramer and Couture all scoring from long range.
In the fourth, Philomath had a slim 51-48 lead with 6:13 left in the game. But the Warriors were able to create a cushion behind a strong defensive effort the rest of the way. Over the final six minutes, Henley managed to score only four points on a field goal and a couple of free throws.
Meanwhile, Philomath’s Kramer racked up 13 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 39 in the game.
“You’ve got to give them some credit,” Silva said. “That’s a long bus trip to come on the road against a very tough team. They came ready to play.”
Kramer’s 39 came on 14 field goals, which included a trio of 3-pointers, and 8-of-12 shooting on free throws. In addition to Kramer’s points, Brown also hit double figures with 11 — nine of those in the second half.
The 4A tournament will take place at Marshfield High in Coos Bay and at nearby North Bend High after Forest Grove opted out of hosting this year. Philomath is very familiar with the new venue.
“Marshfield’s kind of like going home for us,” Silva said. “We’ve played more games there than anywhere else — other than our home games.”
Silva said the team will be staying at the same hotel as it has in past regular-season tournaments and the girls already know their favorite restaurants to hit.
“It’s actually a nice switch, in my opinion,” Silva said. “The community supports the tournament better than Forest Grove, also in my opinion. I’m kinda happy it got switched to Marshfield.”
Philomath could end up in a rematch against Oregon West Conference member Stayton in the quarterfinals. Stayton will play at Mazama on Saturday to determine who advances for a shot at the top seed. The possibility of a third game this season against Stayton is interesting with the two schools splitting the season series. The Eagles upset the Warriors, 43-40, on Feb. 17 — the only time this season Philomath lost to a 4A opponent.