HALSEY — The Central Linn girls basketball team has been involved in plenty of close contests this year.
With the season on the line Friday, the Cobras found themselves in another nail-biter, but a gritty late-game effort on the defensive end helped them escape and earn a trip back to the state tournament.
The No. 3-seeded Cobras topped No. 14 Colton 33-29 at home Friday in the first round of the 2A state playoffs and are now one of the last eight teams standing. It marked the second-fewest points Central Linn has scored in a game this season, but the Cobras found baskets when they were needed.
“Survive and advance,” Central Linn coach Marcus Campbell said. “We’ve had a lot of these games this year, a lot of close games where it was uglier than we would have liked. Our kids are resilient and I think our two seniors really kind of guided us to the win.”
Waiting for Central Linn in the state quarterfinals will be a familiar opponent in conference rival Monroe, which also won its first round game Friday. The Cobras and Dragons have faced off three times already this season, with Monroe winning the two recent meetings.
The two teams will square off a fourth time on March 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Pendleton Convention Center.
“We owe them one — they got the last two,” Campbell said. “We’ve played them close all season long with two games in overtime and another one that went down to the wire. Maybe a neutral court will be a little bit different.”
The Cobras got a game-high 15 points out of sophomore guard Ryleigh Nofziger and freshman wing Gemma Rowland chipped in seven points. Due to Central Linn’s frenetic defensive approach, many teams have looked for ways to slow games down against them this season.
Colton did that, in part, by breaking through the Cobras’ full-court press and working the ball to star forward Olivia Haines in the high post.
“They played really hard,” Nofziger said. “(Haines) will get to the hoop and she knows how to finish, and their point guard is really fast… But when we could get our posts to not help off, things started to work.”
Colton limited the Cobras to plenty of tough looks early in the game and held them to eight points in the first quarter.
Neither team scored for the first 3:30 of the second quarter, but Ally Crowell opened the scoring for the Cobras with a banked jumpshot, and more offense quickly followed.
Ashlei Ramirez buried a 3-pointer, and Nofziger followed with another two minutes later to make it 16-8 Central Linn.
But just when it seemed the Cobras had taken hold of the game, the Vikings scored four points in a two-second span to close out the half. Madi Olsen was fouled on a three-point attempt and made two of the free throws. When she missed the third, Haines grabbed the rebound and buried a putback layup at the buzzer.
The Vikings carried that momentum into the second half and held a 24-23 lead with less than a minute to go in the third quarter. But a pair of jumpers from Nofziger — the second of which came near the end of the quarter — helped Central Linn take control of the game for good.
“It made me feel really good, because I am not a 3-point shooter at all,” Nofziger said. “So it was just really nice to hit those two.”
The Cobras then closed out the game on an 8-5 run, including five points from Rowland over the final three minutes.
“It was a little bit stressful,” Nofziger said. “But I knew our team could pull it off. I knew we could do it.”
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!