PENDLETON — With 20 seconds left on the clock and No. 1 Kenny up 51-40, Trojan senior Hannah Arritola was sent to the free-throw line.
On the bench, head coach Kerry Hall was thinking one thing: I told you so.
It wasn’t the first time the Kennedy girls basketball program was in a 2A state title game. Two seasons ago, the Trojans took home a championship with a talented group of seniors.
This year, however, the squad had doubters and at times, doubts of their own.
“At the beginning of the season we told them you can do it,” Hall said. “There was a point midway through the season when I was having a conversation with Hannah, both of us got a little emotional and I said if you keep working hard the way you’re working hard you are going to do it.
“So, honestly when the time was ticking down there in my brain I was thinking I told you so and that’s a good feeling to have.”
Arritola was one of six seniors on the court for Kennedy, which claimed the 2018 2A girls state title after a 53-40 win over Monroe. Arritola played in the championship game two years ago and her experience on the court showed as she nabbed nine rebounds, dishes out two assists and recorded seven points.
But along with the veteran group were younger players, including sophomore Sophia Carley.
Carley had an impressive outing in the semifinal game, notching a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and again impressed on the floor with 11 points and 10 boards Saturday.
Not yet in high school, Carley remembers watching the Trojans (28-1) win it all two years ago and couldn’t wait until see could have a say in that same outcome.
“It was crazy because I remember going to my state tournament as an eighth grader and having to miss their state championship game,” Carley said. “We had to watch it in the hotel and I was like, ‘I can’t wait to be there’ and now we’re here.”
The win did not come easy, at first.
Kennedy was familiar with Monroe as it faced the Dragons (26-3) two previous times in preseason, winning both games by a combined 27 points.
The Trojans were prepared for their sharp shooter in seniors Madison Ballard and Payton Greene.
A bulk of Monroe’s top scorers points were scored in the second half when the Dragons worked to chip away at an early deficit.
Ballard opened the game with a 3-pointer to give Monroe an early 3-2 edge over Kennedy. But the Trojans also found a spark along the perimeter and nailed some three’s of their own, one of which was at the buzzer for a 15-7 advantage.
Kennedy’s steady shooting continued and were still up at the half, 30-18.
Monroe’s best efforts came in the third quarter.
The Dragons came within one possession of the Trojans after a 15-4 run that ate up nearly the entire quarter. But as quickly as Monroe cut its deficit, Kennedy began to rebuild its lead.
The Trojans put together a 13-7 fourth quarter to seal the deal. Leading their efforts was senior Kaylin Cantu with 12 points. Carley followed with her 11 and junior Kalyssa Kleinschmit added nine points.
For Monroe, Ballard and Greene both finished with 12 points.
MHS 7 11 15 7 — 40
KHS 15 15 10 13 — 53
MONROE — M. Ballard 12, P. Greene 12, C. Knaggs 8, K. Martin 5, K. Martin 3.
KENNEDY — K. Catnu 12, S. Carley 10, K. Kleinschmit 9, H. Arritola 7, K. Brown 6, A. Frey 4, M. Jaeger 2, C. Traeger 2.
3-pointers — MHS 5, KHS 3. Free throws — MHS 5-8, KHS 14-17. Fouls — MHS 24, KHS 7.
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.