Prep girls basketball: Central Linn faces tough opponent in state tournament

Prep girls basketball: Central Linn faces tough opponent in state tournament

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Gallery: Monroe vs Central Linn basketball 02

Senior guard Colleen McLaughlin passes to a teammate against Monroe. McLaughlin said the Cobras know the strengths and weaknesses of No. 1 seed Kennedy and will be ready to go for the 2A quarterfinal game in Pendleton.

The Central Linn girls basketball team will face a tough test when the Cobras play defending state champion and top seed Kennedy in the quarterfinals of the OSAA 2A state tournament.

The ninth-seeded Cobras (21-5) are fresh off a 50-41 victory over Lost River in the first round of the playoffs last Friday and will be looking to continue their momentum against a team in Kennedy that has just one loss this season.

“We expected to be here,” Cobras head coach Marcus Campbell said. “Last year we came up one game short and knowing who we brought back, we knew we’d have a good chance deep in the season so making it to Pendleton was our goal all year long.”

Central Linn will square off with Kennedy (26-1) at 3 p.m. Thursdsay at Pendleton Convention Center. The Cobras know just how difficult of a challenge they have in front of them with the Trojans, but feel confident in their chances knowing that they’ve played Kennedy well in the past.

Campbell, who’s in his fifth season as head coach and has built the Central Linn program from five-win campaigns to a title contender, likes how his team matches up with former league opponent Kennedy and that they feel confident headed into the matchup with the top seed.

Kennedy defeated Central Linn twice last season, by seven and 37 points. The teams split two games in the 2016-17 season by a combined three points. 

“Going up against Kennedy, I feel really good," Campbell said. "I know what their record is and what their ranking is, but this time of year that doesn’t mean anything. We’re familiar with them and what they like to do, so we’re going to play hard and keep doing what we’ve done all season long and give ourselves the best chance to come out with the win.”

Kennedy's lone defeat came back in December at Oakland, another 2A tournament team. Central Linn has won seven of its last eight games. The Cobras' only loss in the stretch came at Monroe, which shared the Central Valley Conference title with Oakland. 

Cobras’ senior point guard Jessica Neal, who’s been a part of the rebuild that Campbell and his staff have taken in the past five years, feels the familiarity with the Trojans gives them confidence heading to Pendleton.

“They’re the most difficult seed in the bracket, but we’ve played them in years’ past and have success against them,” Neal said. “As a team we’re pretty confident we can be successful against them.”

Added senior shooting guard Colleen McLaughlin: “Since we’ve played Kennedy in the past, we know their strengths and their weaknesses. We’ve beat them in the past, and we know how to beat them. We have to make sure everything clicks and we’re focused the whole time. They’re a team that will take advantage of you if you aren’t playing your best.”

With the Cobras putting their final touches on their game plan for the Trojans, it’s important to keep one thing in mind. Central Linn isn’t just happy to be going to Pendleton. The Cobras want to go and find success.

“We’re really excited to go to Pendleton, because it’s been a long time since anyone from our school has,” Neal said. “We’re not just satisfied with going, we want to be successful.”

Central Linn was last at the state tournament in 2006, when the Cobras took third. 

While Kennedy is certainly a daunting challenge for Central Linn, Campbell feels that as long as his team comes out and plays with maximum effort and grit, they’ll put themselves in a position to win.

“Hopefully we come in and play relaxed,” Campbell said. “We’re not coming in just wanting to be here, we want to bring home a trophy and the big, blue one if possible. Kennedy is a really good team that’s well-coached and they’ve been good for a long time. This time of year, we know it’s going to be a grind, but we’re prepared to go over there and play our best.”

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