PHS senior Mia Bennett drills one of her two 3-pointers in the second half against Newport. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

After scoring just 23 points last week at Cascade, the Philomath High School girls basketball needed to put together a solid performance to inject a bit of confidence into its offense. A Monday night visit from Newport appeared to be an opponent that could fill that need with the Warriors scoring 54 against the Cubs in their first meeting.

Philomath pulled away in the second half for a 41-28 victory but the offense didn’t click on all cylinders for much of the contest. The biggest obstacle that keep derailing the offense came down to turnovers.

“We turned it over too much,” PHS girls basketball coach Ben Silva said. “We get teams to turn it over a lot when we press them and stuff but a lot of ours were just not being strong with the basketball, not making good passes.”

Philomath senior Mia Bennett, who hit two key 3-pointers in the second half as the Warriors pulled away, said the players believe in each other when it comes to doing the right things to come out on top.

“I think we have a lot of trust in each other and we know we’ll be able to come back at it and that’s what we did in the second half,” Bennett said. “We need to come out every game and fight with everything we have.”

Although there were issues with passing and turnovers early on, Philomath still built an 8-0 lead through the first six minutes of the opening quarter. Sophomore Anneka Steen and junior Ahnika Tryon converted free throws and freshman Emily Taunisila buried a 3-pointer at the 3:04 mark for the first half-dozen points. Tryon scored about a minute later with an assist to senior Abigail Brown.

PHS senior Abigail Brown flashes the game official a smile while going to the floor to try to get possession of the ball on Monday against Newport. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Newport scored five of the last six points in the quarter, however, and was able to stick around for the rest of the half. Brown scored twice inside and senior Hailie Couture hit but that would be it for the PHS offense in the second quarter. Newport senior guard Avonly Wolf hit a 3-pointer late to cut the Warrior lead to 15-12 at the break.

“Sometimes when they’re turning the ball over a lot, you have to bring some calm just to be that stabilizing force when they’re flustered or frustrated,” Silva said. “There was a lot more energy and effort to the second half and that’s what made a difference right there.”

Newport (10-9 overall, 2-4 Oregon West) took its only lead of the game with 5:15 left in the third quarter after a couple of baskets by sophomore Sheala Simmons. The Warriors responded almost immediately with Brown going hard to the hoop, getting the basket and drawing a foul for a traditional three-point play.

That sequence was the start of a 13-0 run for the Warriors that proceeded into the fourth quarter. Sophomore Zoee Howard came in and scored three baskets over the final 3-1/2 minutes of the third — two on nifty passes from Taunisila.

In the fourth, Bennett hit her first 3-pointer for a 28-16 lead.

“We were excited to come back out but it was hard after that loss — it’s hard to come off of that,” Bennett said, referring the Cascade game from last week. “In the second half, we came out really strong.”

Warriors sophomore Zoee Howard tries to find room underneath against the Cubs. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Silva mentioned Howard’s effectiveness off the bench, a player who can fill any role on the floor whether it’s at point, wing or post. Steen also had an exceptional game creating offense when it was needed, Bennett had her fourth-quarter treys and Brown was able to finish on the majority of her shot attempts late.

“We felt like our looks on offense were going to be exactly the same as they were in the first half,” Silva said. “It’s not like we did anything different offensively but in the second half, we didn’t turn the ball over and we made our layups when we got shots at the hoop.”

In addition to Bennett’s shooting in the fourth, Brown scored six of her 13 points, Steen had a steal and layup and Howard had another layup to give Philomath its biggest lead of the night at 41-25 with 43 seconds remaining.

Simmons had 11 and Wolf added 10 to lead the Cubs.

Philomath (12-6, 5-1) will now get ready for a trip to North Marion on Thursday. The Warriors downed the Huskies in their first meeting, 50-29, on Jan. 24. Then it’s on to Sweet Home and home games against Stayton and Cascade to end the regular season.

Bennett believes the team learned something from that lone league loss to the Cougars.

“I think it really can bring a team together and it taught us that we need that team chemistry in order to win those games,” she said. “We need to be able to grind at the very end.”

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.