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‘Barlow Pride’ on full display even in defeat at 6A girls basketball final, and make no mistake: The Bruins will be back on this stage

“Our fanbase is amazing. We’re just a super tight community — like everybody had our backs today.”
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By Alex Tam | Photos by Taylor Balkom | Video by Ken Waz 

PORTLAND — Tucked away in a tight-knit community that’s centered on SE 302nd in Gresham is a school with a lot of pride in who they represent.

It’s a simple saying known around this school: Barlow Pride. 

From the parents to the students, many of whom showed up to Saturday’s OSAA Class 6A state championship game, including the cheerleaders, band, dance team and classmates, the support was immeasurable, but it was what you’d expect for anyone who knows what Barlow is about. 

While the Bruins lost the program’s first appearance in a girls basketball state title game, 66-49, to Beaverton at the Chiles Center, the players knew it meant much more than just a game. 

It was a chance to show the entire state what Barlow Pride is all about.

“It’s definitely a blessing,” junior Kennedie Shuler said. “I love playing with Barlow on my shirt, and having the city on our backs. It’s definitely a memory I’ll have forever. It’s a great gift.

“Our fanbase is amazing. We’re just a super tight community — like everybody had our backs today.” 

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Barlow coach Nick Hudson, who graduated from Barlow in 2000, said it’s been “amazing” to see the support for his players during this run to the state title game.

“Everybody’s got that all-for-one mentality,” Hudson said. “It’s a unique community. It’s where I grew up, and I’m proud to be a Bruin.”

Barlow got stuck having to play catchup for most of Saturday’s game. Beaverton jumped out to a huge 19-2 lead after the first quarter that left the Bruins a little stunned.

“Beaverton definitely came out to play,” junior Annie Koenig said. “They were not going to wait for something to happen.”

The deficit grew to 20 in the first half before Barlow’s top scoring duo of Koenig and Shuler took over after halftime to help the Bruins get back in the game. Shuler and Koenig combined for 33 of the team’s 39 points.

Barlow clawed back to within nine points on two occasions in the third quarter, but a combination of Beaverton’s stingy defense and timely shooting held off any comeback attempt. 

“They showed up to play and we couldn’t respond early,” Shuler said. “Super proud of how we tried to come back, but it just didn’t end up in our favor. Beaverton is a really good group, so proud of them, too.”

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The Barlow girls program had a great run during the early 1990s and had reached the state semifinals three times in school history (1993, 1990, 1982) but never could break through to the title game. 

Until this year.

Most recently, the program had consistently made the playoffs but did not have the success it expected. Before this season, the Bruins hadn’t won a playoff game since beating North Medford in the first round March 2, 2011 — a span of 11 years. 

“I’m going to try to continue to tell myself to remember the positives,” Hudson said. “Right now, it feels like some people will say, ‘Oh, you got second place, you got second place.’ That’s all you’re going to remember, but there were so many big games, so many big moments and big steps we took throughout the season and all that. 

“We’re so proud, and it was awesome to hear the girls say the same things about what we did this season.” 

Four seasons ago, Hudson took over the Bruins program and missed the playoffs after going 13-11. The next season, they went 19-6 overall and won the Mt. Hood Conference title, but they were ousted in the first round by McMinnville. 

A COVID-shortened season last spring saw Barlow go 13-4, but the makings of something special were there if given a chance this season.

The Bruins finished 25-4 and were the only team to beat Beaverton with a 53-46 win at the POA Holiday Classic on Dec. 29.

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“Why not us?” Shuler said. “My biggest takeaway was that we could do anything we put our minds to. We worked together and played super hard for each other. A lot of us have been together since we were really young. We just have this special bond, and it’s not me-ball. It’s us, it’s always us.” 

Along with Shuler and Koenig, Barlow could return as many as 11 varsity players, including juniors Olivia Payne, Haidyn Sobella and Rilyn Quirke, plus sophomores Amelia Arends, Kylie Ihrig and Paris Hull, and freshmen Lizzy Weber, Addi Knight and Gracie Heath.

The Bruins will lose three seniors and cornerstones — Melanie Hiu, Lindsay Barden and Jesssie Matthews — who each played a role in the program’s resurgence since Hudson took over.

“Like I told them, ‘You girls have been the foundation,’” Hudson said. “What a crazy amount of growth from that first year, barely being above .500 to coming up just short in the championship game.” 

With all the potential returners, no one should be surprised to see Barlow return to the spotlight again at the state tournament. 

“It’s going to look a little different,” Koenig said. “But I think we’re going to put in as much work as we possibly can and see if we can make another run like this.”

Added Shuler: “Obviously, we’re going to miss our seniors so much. But I’m super glad me, Annie and the rest of our group get to go at it one more year. I think we’ll come back stronger.” 

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