The only thing that would’ve made Western Mennonite’s run in the Class 2A girls basketball state tournament at Pendleton Convention Center any sweeter would’ve been an overthrow of the defending champions.
Alas, No. 1 Regis of Stayton – which defeated the Lady Pioneers in the Class 2A Tri-River Conference championship game – won its third contest (out of four) against No. 6 Western Mennonite on Saturday, this one for all the marbles. Beth Lorenz led all scorers with 23 points as the Lady Rams held the Lady Pioneers to 25.0 percent shooting (8-of-32) in a 36-29 victory for Regis’ fifth consecutive Class 2A state title.
The loss to a conference rival notwithstanding, the state tournament represented a watershed moment for a Western Mennonite program that has often taken a backseat to the historically successful boys program.
“The best finish in school history,” Lady Pioneers coach Robby Gilliam said, “is something to be proud of.”
Despite the poor shooting numbers, Western Mennonite (25-5) assembled a 29-23 lead on Dayton resident Jenna Christenson’s three-pointer with 6 minutes, 24 seconds remaining in the game. It was the last basket the Lady Pios would score, however, as Regis ended the game on a 13-0 run.
“We knew there’d be no surprises either way,” Gilliam said. “It was, roll the ball out there and may the best team win.
“For 29 minutes, that was us. For the last three minutes, it was them.”
Western Mennonite started off the tournament with its “best game all season,” in Gilliam’s words, a 66-40 rout of Union on Thursday. Sophomore Emma Gibb had 19 points and 17 rebounds, freshman Madison Hull added 15 points and six rebounds and Christenson scored 11 points.
The Lady Pioneers met up with Tri-River Conference rival Santiam in the semifinals on Friday, their fourth meeting with the Lady Wolverines this season. Gibb (13 points and 13 rebounds) and Christenson (10 points) paced Western Mennonite to a 42-20 victory.
Gibb set a tournament record with 45 rebounds and earned all-tournament honors along with Christenson and Hull.
“Emma was dominant on the offensive and defensive ends the entire tournament,” Gilliam said. “She allowed our guards to be a little more aggressive or overplay the ball on the defensive end.”
Pioneers take fourth place
After a difficult quarterfinal loss to eventual state runner-up Oakland, the Western Mennonite boys basketball team bounced back to finish fourth at the Class 2A state tournament at the Pendleton Convention Center.
The No. 7-seeded Pioneers fell 46-42 to the No. 2 Oakers on Thursday, but rebounded with a 44-33 victory over Days Creek. Western Mennonite secured its placement in a 55-39 win over No. 12 Central Linn in the final game for an eight-person senior class.
“It’s been a special two years with this group,” Gary Hull said. “Those are great kids. They exemplify the whole thing of fun team basketball.”
Senior post Victor Hess was named first-team all-tournament and senior guard Jon Stubblefield was named second team all-tournament.
“Victor was fantastic – like watching Clyde ‘The Glide’ (Drexler),” Hull said. “He just has that ability to jump and glide and finish. Stubblefield is just a solid floor leader.”