It was déjà vu at Matthew Knight Arena for the 2013 OSAA Class 5A Girls Basketball State Championship on Saturday night, as the Willamette Wolverines and Springfield Millers—both teams from the local area—squared off in a rematch of last year’s state championships.
With Springfield winning the 2012 state championship by a bizarre score of 16-7 due to a stall tactic implemented by the Wolverines, Willamette was looking to prevent the Millers from winning their third straight state championship.
And unlike last year, the Wolverines didn’t use any stall tactics against No. 1 Springfield.
The result of their different strategy ended up paying off with huge dividends, as the Wolverines fended off the Millers to win a state championship.
After Springfield and Willamette traded three-pointers to open up the championship game, the Wolverines saw themselves to a slim 6-3 lead behind Lexi Bando’s second straight three. A jumper by Ashley Richey and Mercedes Russell for Springfield would quickly give the Millers the lead once again before Willamette jumped back on top with yet another three.
The first quarter would end on a positive note for the Wolverines as Bando hit yet another three with 1:34 to play to give them a 12-7 advantage before they were able to shut down any possession by the Millers to take a five-point lead into the second. Willamette continued to extend their lead against Springfield in the opening minutes of the second quarter, using another three by Bando to give them an early eight point advantage.
Facing their largest deficit of the game, the Millers began to climb back into the game, using an 8-2 run to the Wolverines’ lead to 17-15 with 3:40 left to play in the half. Willamette would once again go on a run of their own, rattling off a 7-2 run to give them a 24-17 that would take them into the break with a decent advantage over the back-to-back champions.
Needing to find their stride quickly in the third, Springfield scored a quick four points to cut the Wolverines’ lead to 24-21. Willamette would once again respond to Springfield’s run, rattling off two straight three-pointers to open their lead to nine with 4:14 left to play in the quarter. A layup by Russell for Springfield, after the Millers and Wolverines traded blows, would end the quarter with Willamette holding a 31-24 lead heading into the fourth.
The fourth quarter would once again be defined by Springfield climbing back into the game but Willamette eventually establishing another comfortable lead. The result – the Wolverines being crowned the 2013 OSAA Class 5A girls basketball state champions, ending the Millers’ run at two straight titles.
After Springfield narrowed their deficit to just two points with 2:06 left to play, Autumn Baumgartner hit a three for the Wolverines that gave them the momentum to close out the contest. Willamette would end the game on two free throws by Baumgartner and a missed shot by Nikki Duncan, giving them a 48-41 victory and the state title.
Leading the way for the Wolverines in their championship effort was Lexi Bando, who racked up a total of 23 points, four rebounds, one assist, and one block on the night. She also hit 5-of-7 from the three point distance. Joining her in double-figures on the night was Autumn Baumgartner, who was key towards the end of the game and finished with 12 points, four rebounds, and two assists.
Pacing the Millers on the night was Mercedes Russell, a player who had a relatively quiet game compared to her prior performances during the year. Considered the No. 1 girls basketball prospect in the nation, Russell finished with just 12 points, though she did haul in six rebounds.
Willamette was able to hold all other Springfield players to under 10 points en route to their state championship.