MISSION — It is no secret that the Nixyaawii Golden Eagles’ ultimate goal is to again go undefeated and win the 1A state championship.
And now halfway through the season, it’s getting harder to imagine any name other than the Golden Eagles’ on that 2018 championship trophy.
The Golden Eagles hosted the Powder Valley Badgers on Friday evening, a team that came in undefeated and at No. 1 in the OSAA’s 1A rankings, and made the Badgers look like an ordinary team. A suffocating half-court defense and an offense in rhythm combined to give Nixyaawii a 71-24 victory over Powder Valley, holding the Badgers to a new season-low in points scored and a new season-high in points allowed.
“We’re just operating at another level than anyone else right now,” Nixyaawii coach Jeremy Maddern said afterward. “If we can keep that up and keep playing well then it’s a lot less stress for me.”
It’s the sixth straight game the Golden Eagles (13-0, 4-0 Old Oregon League) have scored more than 70 points and allowed less than 35 points, and the ninth time they have won by at least 40 points. But senior guard Mary Stewart, who finished with a game-high 25 points, says that they’re not getting tired of winning games in these ways.
“What we get tired of is being pulled out at the end,” Stewart joked. “We just like to run, run, run the whole game.”
There was a good amount of pre-game hype leading up to Friday, with the Badgers knowing this was a chance to make a statement and knock off the defending state champions and the Golden Eagles knowing that the Badgers were going to come at them hard. However, once the game tipped off the Golden Eagles zapped the energy right out of the Badgers players and their group of fans that made the trip over the Blue Mountains.
Nixyaawii outscored Powder Valley 17-1 in the first quarter, with Powder’s lone basket on a made free throw at the 2:44 mark. The Badgers’ first made field goal did not come until one minute into the second quarter when Megan Bingham sank a 3-pointer to make it a 19-4 game.
The Golden Eagles’ defense simply frustrated the Badgers for all 32 minutes. The Badgers averaged 52.5 points per game coming in, but shot a dreadful 15 percent (9-of-61) from the floor and just 5-of-16 from the free throw line with 20 turnovers.
“Our defense, wow,” Maddern said. “We were just rotating correctly and they put so much pressure on (Powder) without fouling and that’s just hard to deal with. We just wear teams down eventually, like tonight. As long as we play defense like that, we’ll beat anybody.”
Stewart added “Our length on the court and our ability to work together is what makes us special,” she said. “If someone’s not in their spot, someone will fill in, we just work together in a cycle.”
To go along with her 25 points, Stewart also added six rebounds, six steals and five assists. The other half of Nixyaawii’s 1-2 punch, Milan Schimmel was also exceptional as she finished with 21 points, eight rebounds, eight steals, eight assists and three blocks. Katilynn Melton added 10 points to round out their leading scorers.
“We knew they were going to give us a big effort so we’ve been preparing for them,” Schimmel said. “We’ve been counting down the days and eventually it came and we were ready for them and we played a great game tonight.”
PV 1 8 9 6 — 24
NCS 17 20 13 21 — 71
POWDER VALLEY — J. Ash 8, S. Kerns 5, M. Bingham 5, A. Davis 4, J. Krieger 2.
NIXYAAWII — M. Stewart 25, M. Schimmel 21, K. Melton 10, T. Melton 6, E. Butler 6, E. Looney 3.
3-pointers — PV 1, NCS 4. Free throws — PV 5-16, NCS 7-11. Fouls — PV 9, NCS 13.
Contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.