Continuing their winning ways
The Willamina girls basketball team’s victory over Amity Friday night ran their current win streak to 17 games and their Class 3A West Valley League win streak to 30 games dating back more than two years.
The wins have piled up for Willamina's four seniors - Whitney Anderson, Zoey Holsclaw, Kyra Toney and Devon Stackhouse - through their career as Bulldogs. They are 42-2 in West Valley League games over their career.
The girls have played competitive basketball together since fifth grade. Their success began early, as winning was the norm through middle school. The four made varsity together freshman year, when the Bulldogs were reigning league champions.
“I think we came in all wanting to contribute to the team and hoping to do well,” said Anderson, the team’s starting point guard who earned second-team all-state honors last year. “We didn’t know we’d do as well as we have.
The seniors’ only league blemishes are two three-point losses to Horizon Christian, one in each of their first two years.
“It still hasn’t sunk in to me that we’re that good,” said Holsclaw, co-captain of this year’s squad along with Anderson. “It doesn’t feel like we’re crazy good. But I guess other teams fear us.”
In their last year together, it’s obvious a fourth WVL championship won’t make this a successful season. The senior-led team has hopes for a deep run in the OSAA Class 3A state playoffs.
After succumbing to consecutive first-round exits, the Bulldogs advanced to the semifinals last year by beating Corbett in the first round and Vale in the quarterfinals. They settled for fifth place after losing to St. Mary’s and Rainier. But the taste of late season success could help the senior-led team reach further goals.
“Hopefully we go further than last year, maybe win it all,” Anderson said.
Toney agreed, “As long as we get third that’s cool, but all of it would be nice.”
Though they said they don’t compare the two sports, Anderson, Toney and Stackhouse had as impressive a career in volleyball, in which their went a perfect 56-0 in league matches over four years. Willamina was eliminated in the first round of the OSAA Class 3A playoffs this year by Salem Academy at home. The 25-10, 25-8, 25-16 defeat was considered the team’s worst game of the year.
The seniors quickly turned around and focused on a run in basketball.
“They’ve had success in volleyball and other sports,” said coach Tom Anderson, father of Whitney and her sister Kasey, a sophomore starter on the team, “But I would say basketball is something they've really put extra time in, and that’s why it’s paying off for them.”
Anderson said the Jan. 28 game at Corbett is an example of all the hard work paying off. He called a timeout after they had just gone down one point with a minute left.
“I changed the play like five times; I think I was more nervous than they were,” he said. “And then I said, 'You know what, just go out and play - you guys know what to do.’”
And they did. Holsclaw tied it was a free throw and the Bulldogs locked down on defense to pull out the 42-38 win over a potential playoff opponent. Anderson said the game proved to him that the team has a good understanding what it takes to win big games.
“If we outwork them, then we should win,” said Toney, whose dad, Cliff, is an assistant coach.
“I like to see smiles on their faces, because they're pretty hard on themselves,” Anderson said, “and as coaches we’re pretty hard on them. I wouldn’t say we expect them to win every game, but we expect them to play hard every game and then winning takes care of itself.
“That’s the way we expect in league. We expect to outwork every other team and let the results take care of themselves,” the coach said.
When asked if they're sick of each other after so many hours together on and off the court, the girls laughed and assuredly said, 'no."
"The realization (is hitting) that we’re seniors and this is our last year and we’re going to have to cherish the time we have," Kasey Anderson said. "In the first couple of years we fought for every win, and we continue to fight even though we feel like we should beat every team. We still have to go out and play."
Willamina has four games left before playoffs start.
"(In playoffs), all the teams are going to be tough," Toney said, "So we know we'll have to play our best."