Senior Abigail Brown scored 17 points for the Warriors. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

KETCHIKAN, Alaska — By the time the halftime buzzer sounded on Thursday against Barrow, the scoreboard showed Philomath High’s girls with 45 points.

The Warriors had just played their best half of basketball this season and had a 24-point lead against an Alaskan opponent that won the state championship in its classification last year.

“That’s by far the best half of basketball that we’ve played,” PHS coach Ben Silva said following his team’s 67-39 victory in the semifinals of the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic. “I mean everybody came in and contributed. We didn’t turn the ball over as much as we had been and we were able to finish at the hoop.”

Philomath, also a defending state champion in its classification last season, has struggled at times offensively so the scoring outburst was a welcomed sight. The 45 points in the first half easily eclipsed the team’s previous season-best of 32 in the second half against Gladstone.

“After yesterday (Wednesday) with how we played, it was like ‘we’ve got to do something different,’” said PHS senior Abigail Brown, who scored a game-high 17 points and was one of three Warriors to hit double figures.

“We had far less turnovers,” Brown added. “When coach said at halftime how many turnovers we had, my jaw dropped because usually we have a lot. So, that first half was really good for us to come out and take care of the ball.”

Philomath advances to the tournament’s championship game on Friday night.

PHS senior Mia Bennett drills a 3-pointer in the first half. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Besides taking care of the ball and finishing at the hoop, Philomath created all kinds of problems for Barrow’s offense. The Warriors opened the game with a high-pressure defense that Barrow couldn’t solve.

“We weren’t sure because they are pretty guard strong — they have good guards — but we were able to use our length to create some trouble and get them into some traps,” Silva said.

Brown said the team needed to work through issues to reach its comfort zone.

“A lot of the time … we’re a little nervous that we’re going to overcommit and then they’re going to get an open layup and stuff like that,” Brown said. “I think the trust has been there a little bit more and we’re doing a better job of committing to getting those traps and the steals … it’s coming along very well.”

Philomath (5-4) led just 7-5 halfway through the first quarter but went on a 13-4 run to create space going into the second. The Warriors then took the game over completely to pretty much put it away by the intermission.

Sophomore Aspen Russell looks to pass to senior teammate Abigail Brown. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Brown scored 13 of her 17 in the first half.

“Yesterday, I really struggled with the ball inside but today, I think we kinda knew that we were oversized against that team,” Brown said. “So we knew we were going to have to take the ball inside if we wanted to win.”

Brown credited teammates for moving the ball effectively.

“I think the guards did a really good job handling the pressure up top and getting the ball inside,” she said.

Junior Ahnika Tryon scored eight of her 13 points in the first half and sophomore Zoee Howard had a consistent performance that added up to 10 points. Several others contributed key baskets as well and the defense was effective all around.

“The defensive energy was there,” Silva said. “We were able to anticipate on the defensive end better than what we have been and then creating some offense out of that defense, which we haven’t been able to do up until this point.”

Silva hopes the positive vibe continues into Friday’s championship game and beyond when the Warriors get back on the court in Oregon.

“It’s been a learning process and we’re still going to struggle with it at times but hopefully we’ll keep moving forward and play like that more consistently,” Silva said.

Warriors junior Ahnika Tryon looks to the hoop. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

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.