PENDLETON — Eight years ago, current Pendleton girls basketball seniors Maureen Davies, Rylee Gentner, Jaiden Lemberger, Kalan McGlothan and Hallie Porter started playing basketball together on a team coached by Hallie’s father, Kevin Porter.
The group stayed on the same team together and continued to be coached by Porter over the next few years, and throughout those years one message continued to relayed from coach to his players. When the team would be at Warberg Court, Porter recalls pointing to the gym rafters at the banners of the teams’ in the Buckaroos’ league and discussing how the wins at the middle school level didn’t really matter. The group wanted to put in the necessary work to reach the high school varsity level and win games — a lot of them — there at Warberg Court.
Eight years later, the group did just what they talked about — and more. The Buckaroo senior class now has 54 career wins and put their names in the school record books after defeating Hood River Valley 50-28 on Tuesday evening to clinch back-to-back Columbia River Conference championships for the first time since 2004-2005, doing so on senior night, too.
“This is amazing,” an elated McGlothan said Tuesday. “It’s all we wanted, all we work for and we’ve worked so hard to get here.”
Porter added, “I never dreamt I’d be their coach in high school ... but it’s been a long journey here to senior night and to eight years later be here with these kids to capture another league title is incredible, just incredible.”
The Buckaroos (16-6 overall, 7-0 Columbia River Conference) road to their second title wasn’t an easy one. The team began the year short-handed, with a few expected role players deciding not to play and injuries to some key players like McGlothan and Katie Bradt forcing first-year varsity players into bigger roles and bigger minutes. The team started the year with a 1-5 record, but things began to click after McGlothan and Bradt returned.
“Once our starting five got back together, we just mesh well,” McGlothan said of the Bucks, who have now won 15 of their last 16 games. “We mesh well with everybody as a team, but our starting five has been together since we were little and we know how to play next to eachother and that’s nice to have.”
The five seniors have been huge for the Buckaroos’ success and were so again on Tuesday, combining for 38 of the team’s 50 points. McGlothan led the way with a game-high 14 points and five rebounds and Davies added 10 points, six boards and four blocked shots. However, the most impressive aspect of the Buckaroos against Hood River Valley was the defensive effort. The Buckaroos swarmed to the ball on every possession and did not allow many clean passes or clean shot attempts, holding the Eagles to just four first-half points and forcing 33 turnovers.
“Defensively we were incredible,” Porter said. “I look at the scoreboard at halftime and they have four points, and that was the hardest four points I’ve seen a team make all year, honestly ... And when we’d sub the bench in, it didn’t have a drop off and that’s huge when you get all the girls to buy into defense.”
That buy-in mentality is something that the seniors have really tried to teach the younger players, because it was something the seniors learned when they were in that position. McGlothan and Davies were on the varsity roster as freshmen when the Bucks made it to the Class 5A state tournament in Corvallis, and got a taste of what it takes to be successful at this level. Porter, Gentner and Lemberger have all gained valuable experience over the past three years, too, and Coach Porter says that the leadership the girls have brought to the table is invaluable for the next wave of Buckaroos.
“I wanted to create an atmosphere here where we play together as a unit, that it’s not about any individual and these seniors have been playing that way for a long time,” Porter said. “They were able to lead by example and that respect and all the kids below them have bought in, and that makes a difference.”
The Buckaroos now have two more league games to finish out the regular season, including the rivalry finale with Hermiston on Tuesday. But then they’ll be back at Warberg Court soon after for their true final home game in the playoffs, something that came faster than the seniors expected.
“It’s crazy how fast it goes,” McGlothan said. “Everyone says it and you never believe it, but it’s crazy.”
HRV 2 2 8 16 — 28
PHS 13 14 11 12 — 50
HOOD RIVER — H. Baker 6, A. Dawson 5, H. McNerney 4, E. Curtis 4, L. Orr 4, B. Frazier 3, B. Ihde 2.
PENDLETON — K. McGlothan 14, M. Davies 10, J. Lemberger 7, R. Gentner 5, S. Spriet 3, H. Kiele 30, K. Bradt 2, N. Nevue 2, H. Porter 2, C. Cooley 2.
Contact Eric at email@example.com or 541-966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.