The Hermiston girls’ basketball loss at the Class 5A state tournament this week signaled the end of winter in the Eastern Oregon sports world. The sharp “pings” of metal bats and and the taste of sunflower seeds are right around the corner but before we fully let go of the hardwood, let’s take a look back at a few of the most exciting — or excruciating — moments between the nets from this season.
Disclaimer: With the number of games across the region played on both the girls’ and boys’ sides, and for the ease of my own poor memory, I’ve picked from only the games I personally covered and saw with my own peepers.
Let’s keep with the Hermiston girls for a moment and harken back to the season’s fresh start. Guard Maloree Moss wrapped up an impressive career as a Bulldog this year and the highlight of her senior season came on Dec. 16 in a preseason game against some Idahoans from Lewiston.
Another poignant memory of mine comes on the other end of the spectrum, far away from the joyful shine in Moss’ eyes after her victory. Wins were rare in Milton-Freewater this basketball season with the Mac-Hi teams combining to go 1-40. The Pioneer boys failed to fight into the win column, but that’s not to say they never came close.
On Dec. 30, Mac-Hi faced Culver in the Heppner Christmas Tournament, taking the Bulldogs to double overtime. A 12-point lead at half disappeared as the Pioneers would ultimately lose 69-67 for their eighth of 21 defeats on the season.
“They’ve never really been in a close game this whole year,” an emotionally worn Curtis Carlson told me, an equal part delighted and crushed coach at that point.
They never came within 10 points of a win again.
The best rivalry I saw on the courts in my first basketball season with the East Oregonian was hands down Stanfield vs. Weston-McEwen. The boys’ squads played five times with each game’s final score separated by seven points or less. Stanfield took the first two games but Weston-McEwen won the final three, including a matchup in the consolation semifinals of the Class 2A state tournament.
“There’s nothing like playing a best of five (series),” Stanfield coach Daniel Sharp joked the night before the matchup. The TigerScots got the last laugh, ending the Tigers’ season 69-62 just last weekend.
While we’ve got TigerScots on the brain, I’m going to award the Weston-McEwen girls with the title (honor perhaps?) of my favorite team to cover from this season. Every time but once that I brought my pen and paper to a Lady TigerScots’ game, Weston-McEwen won — and always in ridiculous fashion. We’re talking three buzzer beaters in three games.
But the cake taker came on Jan. 7 against Stanfield, an easy choice for my moment of the year at just a week deep into 2012. Sophomore Molly von Borstel scored on a layup while fouled as time expired to tie the game at 50-50. She was handed a single un-timed free throw for the win.
Talk about pressure?
Von Borstel sat alone like an island in a vast sea to shoot her shot. Every other player cleared the floor and the gym waited in complete silence as she sank the basket for the victory.
Von Borstel’s giddy on-the-verge-of-tears interview after that game will always remind me why I love sports. It’ll be hard for the spring season to top that.
AJ Mazzolini is a sports writer for the East Oregonian. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.