MADRAS — It was a year of transition for South Wasco County, as Carly Johnson took the post as the girls basketball program’s new head coach.
While she came in inexperienced, the one constant was the veteran core of senior returners, Jada Myers, Kyrsten Sprouse, Madisen Davis and Abby Birman, that had led the Lady Redsides to a 23-4 record and a district title under coach Lynn Cowdrey.
Friday and Saturday, No. 9-ranked SWC picked up back-to-back wins over Dufur (50-29) and Echo (44-41) to score a second straight district championship in Big Sky Conference basketball play at the Buffalo Dome in Madras.
“It’s the biggest honor to win districts with this team,” Johnson said. “I am so proud of these girls and the hard work they have put in for me. At the beginning of the year, we set some good, solid goals of what we wanted to do and we just really set out and worked hard. We’ve accomplished a lot of those goals so far and we want to keep it going.”
Against Echo in the final, SWC trailed 22-21 at the half and then went on a 14-7 third-quarter spurt to go ahead, 35-29, heading to the fourth period.
Echo made it 40-39 at the 1:26 mark and regained possession following an SWC turnover.
The Cougars had an opportunity to regain control, but missed two shots on their next possession and Myers pulled down the rebound and was sent to the line with 45.6 seconds left.
Destiny Mora-Lopez retrieved the offensive rebound on Myers’ free throw misses, and Sprouse was sent to the line.
The senior wing increased the SWC lead to 41-39 after sinking 1 of 2 of her free throws.
Looking to tie, Echo’s Rachel McCarty hit 1 of 2 free throws and on her missed second shot Mora-Lopez got the rebound and was sent to the line.
The sophomore post ran the Redside lead to 42-40 with 28.1 left after making her first shot and then missed the second one, but hustled to get the rebound.
McCoy dropped 1 of 2 free throws to run the score to 43-40, and on Echo’s next possession, McCarty missed a short jumper, Mora-Lopez pulled down the rebound and was fouled with 11.8 remaining, where she sank one of her two shots for a 44-40 SWC lead.
McCarty hit a late free throw with 3.3 seconds on the clock and then the Redsides inbounded the ball and ran out the final ticks to seal the win.
In all, SWC (21-4 overall, 11-2 league) made 13 of 55 field goals, 1 of 12 from 3-point territory, and dropped 17 of 34 free throws.
Mora-Lopez scored 13 points, 10 rebounds, posted two steals and blocked two shots and Birman had 12 points, five boards, three assists and a steal.
Myers went off for eight points and 10 rebounds, McCoy checked in with six points, seven rebounds, two assists and three steals, and Davis added four points and five rebounds.
The Redsides held a 57-39 rebounding edge, with 25 coming on the offensive side, and they scored 13 second-chance points in a game that featured seven lead changes and six ties.
Faith McCarty paced Echo with 14 points and nine rebounds, Rachel McCarty reeled off 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Tylene Skillman tacked on 11 points and six boards.
It has been an impressive two-year run for Myers and her teammates, who have amassed a 44-8 record overall and 25-2 in league action.
In addition to the consecutive district hoops titles, SWC has also claimed two straight volleyball district championships.
There is a mindset in place for the underclassmen to follow when the four seniors graduate.
“This year, I believe we have really come together and connected well, which has helped us win a lot of big games,” Myers said. “The seniors want to set the example for our younger players as much as we can, so they can push themselves harder to get to districts and state in the future. These girls know what the expectations are and they are putting in the work to accomplish their goals.”
Last season, SWC went 23-4 and fell one game shy of advancing to Baker City, losing a playoff contest in Maupin versus Hosanna Christian, 37-24.
They host an opponent to be determined this Saturday in Maupin. No. 17-ranked Ione (18-4) heads to Joseph Wednesday, while Echo (13-13) hosts Southwest Christian for a state sub-round contest.
SWC is ready to take their game to another level.
“We want to take this as far as we can,” Johnson said. “We are happy that we won districts and to be here and we are going to stay in this moment and then get focused in approach to our next playoff game.”