IRRIGON — The Irrigon girls may not have had the most impressive Eastern Oregon League run this season, but on Thursday, they couldn’t have been happier with the way things ended.
In the Knights’ final contest of the season, junior Princesa Chavez put up two consecutive 3-pointers in the third quarter, and Irrigon went on to knock down a quarter-closing, eight-point run to rally past their Umatilla visitors and clinch a 51-48 conference home win over the Vikings. The victory snapped a nine-game skid and gave the bottom-ranked Knights their season’s first and only league win.
“It’s been a tough year,” Irrigon head coach Mike Royer said. “Princesa was out the last couple of games, and JaLay (Burns) was out on Tuesday. It seems like we haven’t really been in sync. It’s really good to finally get a win. They played well all four quarters.”
As it turns out, getting Chavez and Burns back on the court for their season’s final showing was the key to stealing the win from the Vikings.
Umatilla led 28-21 at halftime, but Chavez sunk a pair of 3-pointers not three minutes into the second half to pull within one point of a tie at 30-29. Vikings junior Chantel Lemus broke the run with two at the line to keep her team out front, but the lead wouldn’t last.
Chavez scored her third trey of the quarter — and her fifth on the night — for a 32-32 tie with 4:33 left. The basket scored an eight-point run, capped off by a 3-pointer from Burns to keep Irrigon ahead 37-32.
“JaLay can create shots for herself,” Royer said. “Princesa has developed into a scorer for us this year.”
Umatilla junior Brooklyn Smith, sophomore Taylor Durfey, and junior Devina Monreal opened the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run that spanned just under two minutes to tie the score once more at 42-42. Irrigon junior Alyssa Luna and freshman Jolyne Harrison put up a basket each in response to promptly reclaim the lead for good.
Durfey pulled Umatilla within one point of the lead at 45-44 with 1:24 remaining, but Luna notched another basket, and Burns scored her 20th point of the night with 1:24 left to play to lead all scorers and keep the Knights out front.
“Honestly, we just came together as a team,” said Burns, a 5-foot, 4-inch point guard. “Being 0-9 (in the league) really gave us a reason to win. We fought for it. Our will to win was there.”
The Vikings managed to take over the lead twice in the first quarter off key baskets from Monreal and Smith. A trey from Irrigon freshman Melissa Leon at 6:33 in the second quarter pulled the Knights within one point at 17-16, but the Vikings took off on a 10-point run that allowed them to grasp the lead until Irrigon’s third-quarter comeback.
“Umatilla knows how to work with each other,” Burns said. “They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They build and improve upon that.”
Chavez finished with 15 points to follow Burns in leading the Knights (7-15, 1-9 EOL). Durfey led the Vikings (6-17, 2-7 EOL) with 18 points. Umatilla closes their season at Riverside on Friday at 6 p.m.
“It was good to end on a league win,” Royer said. “It leaves some hope for next year.”