Even though there are still weeks to go in the Mid-Willamette Conference girls basketball schedule, both Corvallis and Crescent Valley knew what was at stake for Friday’s rivalry game.
“There’s nothing like the environment that is created in town for this,” Corvallis coach Dan Miller said. “You can feel the ramped up expectations. It feels like every minute is the last minute of the game. Like every play is the most important play of the game.”
Despite a tenacious late-game rally from Crescent Valley, Miller’s Spartans blocked out the noise Friday and relied on some clutch shooting to secure a pivotal road win in a chaotic setting. In front of a packed crowd, Corvallis topped CV 50-45 after fending off the Raiders’ comeback effort.
“This is a big confidence-booster,” junior forward Daniela Dursch-Smith said. “Especially with it being a crosstown rivalry like this. We’ve had great games in the past where we should have beaten them but we didn’t. So knowing that we just beat a very good CV team, it really gives us an energy boost.”
The Spartans (9-2, 2-1) got 15 points from Elka Prechel and 11 from Ruby Krebs, while Ellie Herber led the Raiders with 15 points. The Spartans held a two-point lead with 30 seconds to go, and Dursch-Smith stole Crescent Valley’s in-bounds pass to help Corvallis close out the game.
“You know it’s gonna be a battle,” Miller said. “They’re gonna fight; that’s a great group over there. They came out and fought hard and kept trying to pin us down. I think we were just a little more resilient, which is great.”
After Dursch-Smith’s pivotal turnover, Krebs and freshman Ava Prechel each buried a pair of free throws to close out the game.
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CV took control of the game midway through the first quarter and look poised to pull away early.
The Raiders took a bit of time to find their groove and were held scoreless for the first five minutes of the game. But Harber brought their offense to life, scoring six points over a 55-second stretch to help CV race out to an 11-4 lead.
The Spartans fought to narrow the deficit through the second quarter and finally drew even at 18-18 on a 10-foot jumper from Savannah Van De Riet with four minutes left in the half. Over those final four minutes, the two teams traded leads five times before the Spartans swung momentum in their favor on the final play of the period.
Krebs buried a 3-pointer with 35 seconds to go, giving the Spartans a 24-22 lead. Corvallis then delivered a stop at the other end and quickly pushed the ball upcourt, where Elka Prechel drilled a corner 3 at the buzzer to make it a two-possession game.
The Raiders worked their way back into contention throughout the third and knotted the game up at 33-33 on a pair of free throws from Gabby Bland with 17 seconds left in the quarter. But once again, Corvallis erased all that momentum with one shot. This time, Dursch-Smith sunk a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Spartans the lead back.
“We knew that our shots would go,” Dursch-Smith said. “We’ve definitely finished games really well this year. Although our starts are something that we can work on, our ability to finish quarters and games has really paid off.”
The Raiders (5-6, 1-2) played a tough preseason schedule and now are without senior post Gwen Grey for the remainder of the season due to recurring concussions. Still ranked in the top-10 of the latest OSAA coaches poll, the Raiders will look for a bit of consistency as conference play continues.
On Friday, they got huge contributions from freshman Bland and Nicole Huang, both of home scored crucial points down the stretch.
“They’re going to be great players, both of them,” CV coach Eric Gower said. “A lot of kids are stepping into new roles. … I’m seeing improvement from us consistently. We just have to stay the course. I think by the end of the season we can be really good, we just have to keep building and working.”