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So close they can taste it: Beaverton breezes past Clackamas in 6A girls basketball semifinal, moves 1 win from overdue state title

“We’re just trying to enjoy every moment of it and not take it for granted.”

By René Ferrán | Photo by Taylor Balkom 

Two years ago, the Beaverton girls basketball team felt robbed of its chance to make history when, as COVID-19 first wreaked havoc on our nation, the OSAA canceled the Class 6A state tournament.

Five months ago, Beavers senior Emily Rice felt the sting of disappointment when her girls soccer team reached the 6A state final, only to lose in overtime to Grant in a 4-3 thriller

Saturday night at the University of Portland’s Chiles Center, Rice and her Beavers teammates will go for a double dose of redemption after the top seeds frustrated yet another opponent on their way to the championship game. 

Beaverton held Clackamas to a season-low in points en route to a 41-28 semifinal victory Friday evening, with Rice coming up with one of her best performances of the season.

The senior guard hit two three-pointers and scored eight of her 13 points during a decisive 19-5 run to close the first half as the Beavers (25-1) built a 24-10 halftime lead that never fell below double digits again. 

“We’re just trying to enjoy every moment of it and not take it for granted,” said Rice, who also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. “A lot of us have been here before, and we know what it feels like to get here. But now that it’s actually happening, it’s really cool for us, and we’re just trying to take advantage of it.”

The Beavers, who have reached the state final one other time in program history, will go for their first title at 8:15 p.m. Saturday against Barlow, which staved off a huge South Medford rally for a 44-42 win in the late semifinal. 

“My freshman year, we really thought we had a chance to win,” said junior Zoe Borter, who scored a game-high 15 points. “So, I feel like we’re just trying to do it for those seniors and juniors that we played with that year, because I know it (was disappointing). ... 

“This is just like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so we’re really just trying to do it for them.” 

And if Beaverton needed any more motivation, it was the Bruins (25-3) who handed the Beavers their only defeat of the season — 53-46 at the Portland Holiday Classic on Dec. 29, avenging a 39-28 loss in the second week of the season.

“They’re a great team,” said junior point guard Madison Naro. “We’ve faced them twice. We got them once, and they got us once. It’s up to who plays well tomorrow, who comes in and makes big plays and gets stops.”

One night after that defeat, the Beavers took on Clackamas in the finale of the Holiday Classic, with Beaverton handing the Cavaliers (26-3) their first loss of the season, 50-44. 

That stood as the Cavaliers’ lowest point total of the season until Friday, when they shot just 28 percent from the field (10 of 37) against the Beavers’ withering defense. 

“I didn’t feel like we shot super great to really make them adjust what they had to do,” Cavaliers coach Korey Landolt said. “They were able to close out to our shooters, but they didn’t have to overrun our shooters because we weren’t really hitting a lot.”

It all started with Beavers junior Lainey Spear’s effort in once again shutting down Jazzy Davidson, the Mt. Hood Conference’s player of the year as a freshman. 

Spear, at 6-foot-1, had the size and length to hold the 6-1 Davidson to six points on 2-of-12 shooting, mostly by not letting the much-heralded Class of 2025 prospect get to her preferred left hand.

“Obviously, she’s a great player, and I have a ton of respect for her,” Spear said. “I tried to take away her left hand and make every shot tough. I mean, she’s going to score, but I know a lot about her, and I just tried to take away what she loves to do and make those shots super tough for her.” 

With Spear expending so much energy stopping Davidson, she couldn’t take on the scoring load she did in Beaverton’s first-round win Thursday against West Linn. After scoring a game-high 19 points in the 42-19 victory, she took only one shot Friday and scored five points, all at the foul line.

The Cavaliers also focused on slowing Borter, who didn’t come alive until the second half. That meant someone had to step into the void, and Rice — who averaged around five points per game during the season — met the challenge. 

“I was really proud of Emily,” Borter said. “I knew she could step up and do it. She showed great senior leadership, and she was really taking advantage..”

Spear added, “She did so much for us today. She’s the big reason why the outcome was what it was because she did so well.”

Emily Rice photo by Jon Olson 

Emily Rice photo by Jon Olson 

For her part, Rice — the Metro League’s player of the year in soccer — was nonplussed about her performance. 

“I mean, if the other team is guarding my other teammates closely, it’s an opportunity for me to take advantage,” she said. “We take what they give us. That’s what happened tonight.”

Instead, Rice took more pride in the team’s defense, which held a fourth consecutive playoff opponent to fewer than 30 points. 

“We take so much pride in our defense,” she said. “It’s what leads to our offense and what makes us such a strong team, and it just keeps us connected throughout the whole game.”

The Cavaliers made a couple of brief spurts in the second half, getting within 10 on three occasions — the final time at 31-21 on Dylan Mogel’s drive with 4:58 to play.

But despite not making a field goal in the final quarter, the Beavers held Clackamas at arm’s length from the free throw line, making 10 of 13 foul shots in the final 2:33. 

The Cavaliers return Saturday evening to play South Medford in the third-place game, which would be their best finish since placing second in their only final appearance in 2011.

With four freshmen in the starting lineup and junior Rhyan Mogel — last spring’s MHC player of the year — back for the playoffs from a torn ACL suffered over the summer, Landolt thinks her team can rebound quickly from the loss and get a tone-setting win going into 2022-23. 

“It’s kind of about how we can turn around and come back from this tomorrow, even though you know you’ve got young kids in there,” she said. “They’re looking to grow in every aspect of their game, and being in a big, tough game like this, all you can do is learn from it.”

For the Beavers, the time for learning is done. Saturday night is all about finishing a task they set about completing two seasons ago before the pandemic ruined their plans.

“I don’t want to celebrate too early,” Spear said. “But it’s definitely crossed my mind. I mean, two years ago, we were supposed to be in this position, and I just want to finish it for the seniors who didn’t get that opportunity.”