In a year without state championships or even playoffs, one title still remains: league champions.
In the Tualatin girls’ basketball penultimate matchup, they fought for the Three Rivers League (TRL) title against reigning champion West Linn.
Last year, the Wolves took third in the TRL behind Oregon City. But this year with a nearly undefeated record of 9-1 league (10-1 overall), the five residing seniors wanted to claim their title before seeing their high school team off.
“Our seniors are the best class I’ve had in 19 years in terms of just quality of kid,” Head Coach Wes Pappas said at the start of the season. “… and they are the most dedicated and hardworking kids.”
“Us five seniors have been really looking forward to this day and we prepared our whole high school careers for this,” senior Kasidy Javernick told Tualatin Life.
West Linn, meanwhile, held a 9-0 league record and was a force to be reckoned with. The Wolves hadn’t even taken the title since the 2008-09 season – long before these athletes were in middle school, let alone high school.
“They’re (West Linn) always good and I know they’ve always been on top for most years,” Javernick said. “We’ve been working our way up and we’ve been working really hard and preparing in practices for them and we’re glad to finally get a chance and put our work in.”
Without the home-court advantage, Tualatin initially held possession and struck first. A pass from sophomore Tabi Searle found an utterly open senior Aurora Davis on the inside for a jump shot. West Linn responded after missing several attempts but snagging their own rebounds twice to tie up the score.
Searle, on the possession change, drove in close for another open jump shot. But West Linn patched up this opening in their defense and picked off the quarter with a 12-7 lead.
Through the first minute of the second quarter, the Lions brought the lead to as much as six points at 14-8, but the Wolves fell into a groove.
Over the next four minutes, Tualatin went on an exhilarating 10-0 run. Javernick scored for her first points of the game with a jump shot from the line. Searle – on a steal – darted back for a three-pointer, senior Natalie Lathrop knocked down a free throw, Searle scored two more points on an assist from sophomore Olivia Poulivatti and Lathrop came in with a final score from the paint.
Although West Linn finally scored to bring their deficit to 18-16, this was shortly followed up with a three from Javernick, a backboard three from junior Brook Burke and another two points from Burke stemming from a West Linn toss thrown out-of-bounds.
Through the quarter, the Wolves only allowed six while scoring 19 to take a 26-18 lead.
But a shift in strategy after halftime was imminent from both teams. Tualatin took their offense more slowly, passing outside the arc rather than charging in, which, despite their knock-out second-quarter performance, still grew their lead to 39-25 with just over two minutes remaining in the third period.
This called for more desperate measures from West Linn – after all, the title was on the line.
Coming out of a Tualatin timeout, West Linn began full-court man-to-man defense, and this immediately stopped Tualatin in their tracks. West Linn managed to score twice off four steals with senior Sidney Dering only slipping through in the last 20 seconds for two.
The game, however, never fell out of the Wolves’ control, essentially guaranteeing them the league title with the 54-36 win.
What Coach Pappas hadn’t expected, though, was what was in store after the matchup. Swiftly following their victory, the team scurried back to the team room, and Pappas lagged behind. On arrival, the players jumped out from behind a barrier, and soaked Pappas with water bottles to celebrate the occasion and the team aptly flooded with endorphins.
“We were just excited,” Davis said. “We knew we wanted this one and this is a huge one for us and our coach is such a big supporter. It’s so great, so we wanted to celebrate for sure.”
As a team, the Wolves hit 20 of 38 shots from the field with four three-pointers while going 10-for-13 from the free-throw line. Javernick led the Wolves with 12 points with both Dering and Searle scoring 11 points apiece.
The Wolves went on to finish out their regular season against Lake Oswego with a dominating 50-3 win and finalizing their record at 11-1 TRL (12-1 overall) while seeing off five seniors from the team. Teagan Gaviola, Javernick, Dering, Davis and Lathrop all played their final game after their four-year tenure in the Tualatin basketball program, making their mark on the school with this historic team.