LEBANON — Nonconference play has brought the best out of Lebanon High during the 2017-18 girls basketball season.
The Warriors entered Tuesday night’s 5A state play-in round matchup against North Eugene with a perfect 9-0 mark against teams outside the Mid-Willamette Conference. Lebanon leaned on its defense to pick up win No. 10, a 46-26 thrashing of the visiting Highlanders.
The victory gives the 11th-seeded Warriors (18-6) a rematch with No. 6 Bend (20-4) in Friday’s round of 16 for a spot in next week’s 5A state tournament.
“This game especially will really get us going heading into the playoffs,” said Lebanon senior guard Josie Williamson, who knocked down three 3-pointers in the win. “Our preseason was obviously really good. We’ve had some lulls but we’ve talked a lot about our goals for the overall season, and I think we are ready to go.”
Back in December, the Warriors took down Bend 50-36 in Lebanon. The Lava Bears have lost just three games since and went on to capture the Intermountain Conference title.
The victory over Bend was the highlight of Lebanon’s 9-0 start to the season.
“They are a tough team, they are always physical and they are in the tournament every year,” Lebanon coach Mardy Benedict said of Bend. “Our girls will be able to watch the film and see that we’ve done some good things against these guys. We just have to shoot well, play great defense and try to play a complete 32 (minutes).”
The Warriors were terrific defensively Tuesday night, holding North Eugene (8-17) to just 17 points through three quarters. It was the sixth time this year the Highlanders have failed to exceed 30 points.
Lebanon pressed for portions of the game but did most of its damage in the half court.
“We just communicated a lot better tonight,” Williamson said. “We have been working on that in practice, just making sure we are communicating where everybody is on the court.”
Williamson led a balanced Lebanon scoring attack with nine points. Ally Wessel and Ellie Croco added six points apiece off the bench.
Croco was under the weather and played fewer than seven minutes, all in the second quarter. The 6-foot-1 sophomore post was a first-team all-MWC selection.
“She’s been a little sick so we tried to keep her out,” Benedict said. “She sparked us there a little bit, and we needed that.”
After a sluggish start offensively, Megan Miller and Williamson connected on consecutive 3s to put Lebanon up 6-2. The Warriors led 10-5 after one quarter of play.
Sam Cook free throws cut it to 10-7 before Croco finally checked in with 6:34 remaining in the half. Williamson hit on two more 3s and Summer Luther made an outside jumper to give Lebanon a seven-point advantage at 20-13.
The Warriors closed the half on a furious 10-0 run to take a 28-13 lead into the locker room.
“We’ve been going through spurts, kind of some ups and downs so it was good to have a good second quarter,” Williamson said. “I think that pushed our energy into the second half.”
Lebanon didn’t score for the first four-plus minutes of the third but played good enough defense to protect its double-digit advantage. The Warriors recorded just four points in the quarter but still led 32-17 heading to the fourth.
North Eugene’s offensive woes continued down the stretch as Lebanon slowly pulled away.