PHS freshman Emily Taunisila sets up the offense on Thursday night against Stayton. The Warriors won, 34-15. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

In a game that seemed to drag on for long stretches with officials blowing their whistles for 35 fouls and numerous traveling calls, Philomath High’s home girls basketball appearance against Stayton on Thursday night didn’t have much of a rhythm to it.

But the Warriors fought through those challenges, put up an exceptional effort on defense and found a way to score key points in the second half in a 34-15 victory.

PHS pulls away from Stayton in key boys basketball win

Playing at a high level over the course of a 14-week high school basketball season challenges the best of teams. In a way, the struggles that players go through can remind them of the type of effort they need to bring game after game. Philomath High’s boys have not been an exception with a sort…

“We gave up only four total field goals so when you’re able to play defense like that, you put yourself in a great position to win it,” PHS coach Ben Silva said. “Even the last two (points) there was (scored) as time was expiring so it was a fantastic job on the defensive end.”

Philomath (15-6 overall, 8-1 Oregon West) couldn’t do much offensively early on and scored the first of only two field goals in the first quarter on a 3-pointer by freshman Emily Taunisila 4-1/2 minutes into the game. The trey put the Warriors up 6-4 at the time for their first lead, which they would not relinquish the rest of the way.

Sophomore Zoee Howard came off the bench and scored with 52 seconds left in the quarter and then added a free throw with 7 seconds remaining to give Philomath a 10-4 advantage going into the second.

Free throws were a dominating feature of the contest throughout the second quarter. In fact, neither team scored from the field during those eight minutes with the Warriors winning the foul shot battles, 5-3. Philomath held a 15-7 lead at halftime.

PHS junior Ahnika Tryon looks inside against the Stayton D. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Great defense wins games, as the saying goes, but Philomath would still like to find a productive pace on offense to put more points on the scoreboard.

“We have to find some way that we can consistently get some buckets offensively,” Silva said. “In games like tonight when Abigail (Brown) had only five, we still found a way to score enough. But we definitely would like to be a little more efficient on the offensive end.”

Philomath flashed glimpses of offensive consistency in the third quarter. In the first two minutes, Brown scored inside, Taunisila drove to the hoop and sophomore Anneka Steen hit a pair of free throws for a 21-7 lead. In the final 2-1/2 minutes of the quarter, Taunisila scored again, junior Ahnika Tryon converted in transition and Taunisila buried a 3-pointer for a 28-13 Philomath advantage going into the fourth quarter.

Stayton’s only points in the third came on a pair of 3-pointers by senior guard Lydia Bilenberg.

The Warriors nearly pitched a shutout in the fourth quarter. Again, much of the action came at the free-throw line although Philomath struggled at the stripe during that portion of the game. Then all of a sudden, the Warriors scored six points over a 30-second stretch with Brown and Tryon scoring inside and Steen getting a steal and scoring under the hoop with 1:23 remaining. Stayton hit its fourth basket of the game with 6 seconds left.

Taunisila led the Warriors in the scoring column with 10 points.

PHS sophomore Anneka Steen attempts a shot Thursday vs. Stayton. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Silva said he and the players took note of the basketball fans who remained in the gym after the boys game to support the team.

“I would like to say that we really appreciate our fans that stick around for our games,” Silva said. “It’s kind of a bummer when the gym empties out after the boys game, so we really appreciate those people that are here. We’d love it if everybody would stay to watch our game.”

Philomath will next face Cascade at home Monday in the regular-season finale for the conference title.

“It’ll be good high school basketball and that’s what it’s all about — the season should come down to the two best teams in the league,” Silva said. “We’re excited for that one.”

Cascade (13-6, 9-0) will be looking to close out the conference season unbeaten and all alone in the top spot. The Cougars beat Philomath, 34-23, in the first meeting on Feb. 2.

“They’re quick, good guards, good shooters, they have a girl who transferred from one of the Salem schools (junior guard Maddie Dustin) who’s very tough and can score mid-range, 3s, get to the hoop,” Silva said. “We did a good job of slowing her down the first time, she only had 12.”

The tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the PHS gym.

Brad Fuqua

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

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.