Heppner coach Robert Wilson was speechless.
His team, who challenged the Enterprise Outlaws in the 2A state semifinals, escaped with a 39-32 victory. They're officially in the running for the state title.
"I don't know what to say," Wilson said. "All I know is, the girls came out fighting. We knew what Enterprise would do. We had to dig deep and play our hearts out."
The two teams both hail from the Blue Mountain Conference, and have played each other three times previously in the season. Heppner has won twice, and Enterprise once, and it's been decided by eight points or less each time.
"It's hard to beat a team three times," said senior point guard Jacee Currin. "They were coming after us tonight."
Currin got things going with the game's first basket as Heppner ran out to a 7-0 lead, but the Outlaws managed two six-point breaks in the first half to mount a challenge. Heppner made off with the first half by just three points, 17-14.
"They played hard and pressured us," Heppner sophomore point guard Sydney Wilson said of the Outlaws. "But we knew how to keep the ball in our control."
In their game's strongest attack, Enterprise claimed the third quarter 14-12, and would come within three points of taking over twice. But they got too hasty, sending Heppner to the line four times, which the Mustangs turned into eight easy points. Six of those came from Sydney Wilson.
Another six-point Outlaws run wrapped up the third quarter at 29-28, with Heppner barely staying out front.
Sydney Wilson eased the tension with a trey to open quarter four. Enterprise was held scoreless for over four minutes, but as soon as they pulled within five points with just 2:44 left to play, coach Wilson called a timeout.
"I had to get them collected and to understand the situation," coach Wilson said of the break. "We knew they'd come at us. We did a good job of being patient and running our offense to get the shots we wanted."
As the timer wound down, the Outlaws got desperate, missing too many shots and sending the Mustangs to the line far too often to stay in the game. Sydney Wilson and senior forward Jenna McCullough knocked down a foul shot each, and Currin kept the ball out of Enterprise's grasp in the final seconds.
Heppner fans leapt to their feet and the Mustangs embraced in celebration as the buzzer signaled their trip to the 2A state finals.
"It still hasn't hit me yet," Currin said. "It probably will tonight. We played great as a team — everyone, from the bench to the starters, contributed to this win."
Syndey Wilson poured in 16 points and 11 rebounds to lead Heppner, and Currin added nine points. Senior post Karli Bedard sunk 11 points for the Outlaws.
The Mustangs (20-8, 9-4 BMC) will take on the Sunset Conference's No. 1 Coquille Red Devils tonight at 8:30 p.m. in the title game at the Pendleton Convention Center.
"You don't make it to the state championships often, if not once in a lifetime," coach Wilson said. "If we play our game, we can win against anyone in the state."