Catherine Clemens may be the little sister of NFL quarterback Kellen Clemens, but she is staking out her own legacy.
Clemens showcased her abilities Thursday evening when her Burns Hilanders beat Vernonia during the first round of the 2A Girls Basketball State Championships in Pendleton. Clemens, called “Cat” by her teammates, displayed power and poise during the first-round game against Vernonia.
Kellen isn’t the only phenom in the family. Catherine’s two older sisters, Jessica and Maria, excelled on the basketball and volleyball courts. Both sisters went on to play volleyball for the University of Portland and Jessica also played basketball. Their father, John, played football at Oregon State. When the Clemens clan gathers at the family’s cattle ranch for holidays, they sometimes hold a family Olympics to battle in everything from basketball to bowling.
“We’re very competitive,” Catherine said.
The sophomore occasionally feels the expectations of her family history.
“I have to always try and fill their shoes,” she said. “I feel pressured sometimes, but honestly, I just play my hardest.”
This season, Catherine beat a single-game scoring record of 34 points held by Jessica and another Hilander, Chelsea Ross, since 2007. Against Enterprise in January, Catherine sunk 35 points and help thrash the Outlaws by 30.
Often, defenses double-team Clemens. But that doesn’t usually faze the six-footer.
“She’s used to it,” said Burns head coach Brandon McMullen. “She takes care of business.”
It helps that Burns is plenty deep. When Clemens is double-teamed, other Hilanders step up.
“We have other players who are more than willing to take advantage of that scenario and score,” McMullen said.
McMullen’s roster is balanced and powerful. The team, which went 12-0 in Wapiti League play this season, is close-knit. Burns High is small, with fewer than 200 students, so the girls play multiple sports together. They hang out, go to the movies or out for dinner or ice cream.
“We are like family,” said Baylee Hanner, a starter who plays wing.
McMullen, in his second year as head coach, described the team as well-balanced, hardworking and devoid of big egos, including the down-to-earth Clemens.
“We have solid contributors who are seniors, juniors and sophomores,” he said.
The team’s ability to control a game’s tempo is another strength, said McMullen.
“We play at multiple speeds,” he said. “If we want to be fast, we can be one of the faster teams here. If we need to slow it down, we can control the tempo pretty well. If we play as well as we can, we can compete with anyone.”
“If everyone plays their role,” Clemens said before the game, “we should be just fine.”
Before the game, McMullen stood at a white board and pounded in strategy, opposing players to watch and some last words meant to ring around in their brains.
“Loose balls belong to us,” he said. “All five of us need to be crashing the boards.”
Clemens and her 11 teammates watched him with intensity, hydrating and looking spring-loaded. At the end, they circled together, yelled “Together” and knelt to recite “The Lord’s Prayer.”
They fell behind early, regrouped and hit the gas. By the half, Clemens had 11 points and 10 rebounds and the scoreboard read 29-20. They won the game 64-36.
Burns plays next at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Contact Kathy Aney at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-966-0810.