PENDLETON — For the first five minutes of Thursday’s Class 2A quarterfinal game, the No. 8 Heppner Mustangs looked like a team that knew it was a heavy underdog, playing with a chip on their shoulder against the No. 1 Kennedy Trojans.
The Mustangs’ defensive effort caught the Trojans off guard and forced them into six straight missed shots, while the offense ran through the sets well for a 5-2 lead. However, after the early punch from the Mustangs finally woke the Trojans up and settled in and showed the fans that gathered at Pendleton High School’s Warberg Court why they are the No. 1 seed. Kennedy outscored the Mustangs 50-14 over the final 28 minutes of the game to run away with a 52-19 victory, which advanced the Trojans to the state semifinals.
The Mustangs (16-7 overall) simply couldn’t get their offense going against the Trojans’ (27-1) defense as the game went along. As a team, the Mustangs shot a lowly 23 percent (7-of-30) and had 23 turnovers — 14 of which came in the first half alone.
Heppner went the entire second and third quarters without scoring a field goal, and had a drought of more than 20 minutes of game time snapped when Sydney Wilson swished a baseline jump shot with 5:10 left in the game for a 46-13 deficit.
“We came out and gave them a punch, they (Kennedy) punched back and for whatever reason we couldn’t get our offense going,” Heppner coach Kevin Wilson said. “But I’m definitely proud of the way the girls played, Kennedy’s just a good team.”
Wilson said he didn’t feel a sense of nerves from his team prior to the game, though it was the school’s first trip to the state tournament since 2013.
“I think we’ve already achieved more than people thought we would this season,” Wilson said. “I really just told the girls to go out and soak up the moment, enjoy the experience ... but today just wasn’t our day.”
Sydney Wilson, a freshman, led the Mustangs with six points, four rebounds and three steals. Sophie Grant and Jacee Currin each added three points for the Mustangs as well, while Morgan Correa and Madison Combe led the team with five rebounds apiece.
“I’m very proud of all the girls,” Correa said. “We really made sure that no matter what happens we stick together, we stay a family and we have each other’s backs no matter what.”
And even though the Mustangs ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard, the players were overwhelmed with support by Heppner fans at the game. The Mustangs’ blue-and-gold colors filled an entire section of bleachers in the gym and a large contingent of Heppner students made the one-hour trip up to the Round-Up city as well.
Correa said she and her teammates were thrilled to see the support from the community.
“It was amazing,” Correa said of the crowd. “We really put it out there when we played and everybody came through, amazingly. It was great to see everybody here.”
Kennedy’s 6-foot center Sophia Carley and guard Kalyssa Kleinschmit scored 12 points apiece to lead the Trojans. Carley used her size to affect the Mustangs’ offense, and also thrived on offense with six offensive boards. For the game, Kennedy out-rebounded Heppner 37-24, including a 17-5 margin on the offensive glass.
Hannah Arritola added six points and eight rebounds for the Trojans. Kennedy will play No. 5 Faith Bible on Friday at 1:30 p.m. in the semifinals at the Pendleton Convention Center.
Heppner stays alive in the consolation bracket, where it gets an early wake-up call to take on No. 4 Grant Union at 9 a.m. at the Convention Center. The winner moves on to the fourth place game, while the loser’s season will end.
Wilson believes his team will be ready to go.
“I think it’s just rebounding from today and not taking it too hard,” he said, “understanding we’re privileged and lucky to be able to play another game tomorrow where a lot of teams are at home. I think the challenge will be that it’s early, but we’ll be ready to go whenever we can play basketball.
“If it was 5 a.m., we’d be ready to go, too.”
HHS 7 4 0 8 — 19
KHS 14 13 12 13 — 52
HEPPNER — S. Wilson 6, S. Grant 3, J. Currin 3, J. Mahoney 2, J. McCullough 2, M. Combe 2, M. Correa 1, M. Nichols, M. Ashbeck, K. Gray, M. Mitchell, K. Silvia.
KENNEDY — S. Carley 12, K. Klenschmit 12, H. Arritola 6, E. Cantu 6, E. Suing 4, A. Frey 4, K. Brown 3, C. Traeger 2, M. Jaeger 2, K. Cantu 1, H. Garcia, I. Gomez, H. Arritola.
3-pointers — HHS 0, KHS 0. Free throws — HHS 5-11, KHS 12-24. Fouls — HHS 13, KHS 12.
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