For Heppner, Saturday night was one for the books.
The Mustangs earned their first state title in 33 years — and it was all decided by a single point.
The Heppner girls, who battled their way through the 2A championship bracket and a weekend of close games, pulled together a critical fourth-quarter rally to withstand the Coquille Red Devils and take home the gold with a 41-40 victory.
“I’m speechless,” said coach Robert Wilson. “It’s amazing how the girls came out and fought back. They stuck it through till the very end. That just goes to show the grit and determination of my team.”
Heppner held a brief 2-0 lead to start before Coquille tore away with five- and eight-point runs, and kept the Mustangs scoreless for nearly three minutes to put the first quarter away 14-6.
But the Mustangs clawed their way back with an eight-point run of their own in quarter two, bolstered by 3-pointers from sophomore Sydney Wilson and senior Madison Combe.
The Red Devils managed just four points after a 4 1/2 minute drought, and Wilson knocked down a bucket in the final 30 seconds as the Mustangs trailed just 18-16 at the half.
“In that first half, we missed a lot of shots that we would normally make,” coach Wilson said. “I told them, ‘If you have a good shot, take it — don’t worry if it makes it in or not.’”
Coquille drained 13 points in the first five minutes of quarter three, six of which came from junior Morgan Baird. The Mustangs trailed by 12 points with just 2:50 to go.
“No. 32 (Baird) is an outstanding player,” said Heppner senior Jacee Currin. “Her offensive game is unbelievable.”
Currin and Syndey Wilson cut the deficit to just seven by the buzzer, but it all came down to those final eight minutes.
Heppner pulled within one point of the lead with four points at the line from Wilson and Currin, but it was Wilson’s 3-pointer at 5:14 that they reclaimed the lead, and possibility of a win came back into view.
“It was really nerve-wracking,” Wilson said of those climactic shots. “In those moments, I saw it as just me and the gym. I had to take those open shots. We were down, and we needed those to get ahead.”
Baird evened the score at 35-35 with 4:32 to go, but Currin turned around and sank a shot to edge the Mustangs out front again. Wilson hit another 3-pointer at the 1:30 mark for a four-point Heppner lead.
Baird fought back with a three-point play with less than 30 seconds on the clock. She would steal a ball from Heppner’s glass and threaten to take the lead again, but Heppner held firm on the floor in the final seconds until the buzzer rang in a victory that won’t soon be forgotten by players and fans alike.
“This is unreal,” said Currin, breathless. “There’s nothing else I’ve dreamed of. I’ve wanted this all my life.”
Wilson brought 22 points to Heppner’s scoreboard, and Currin added 10. Wilson also grabbed 12 rebounds.
Baird ended with 21 points and 14 rebounds — 11 defensive — for the Red Devils.
“Syd’s a great shooter. She was automatic tonight,” coach Wilson said. “Really, a championship any time is special, but this being the first one in that long, that just makes it sweeter for us.”