Just Call Us Queens: Eastern Oregon Sweeps The 3A, 2A, And 1A State Titles

Earlier this week, there was chatter within the Elite Oregon Girls community about how Eastern Oregon schools feel left out of the discussion points, how they feel ignored and undervalued, and how they want to prove the rest of Oregon wrong. Well, they made it clear that if you play basketball in Classes 3A, 2A, or 1A, then the path to a state title will go through Eastern Oregon. On Saturday, the Crane Mustangs pulled off a 1A 3-Peat against Damascus Christian, Union upset Salem Academy to win the 2A title, and Nyssa held off Burns for the 3A title. It was night to remember if you are from Eastern Oregon, the night where an entire, standing room crowd at Baker went absurdly nuts at the earshot and witness of not one, not two, but three state titles were coming home to Eastern Oregon. In other words, Eastern Oregon told the rest of Oregon to call them queens.

The first domino to drop was Nyssa, who faced fellow Eastern Oregon rival Burns for the 3A state title, assuring that at least one was coming back to the region. It was a low scoring affair, as defense and player specialization took precedence in this matchup. Nyssa’s star Gracie Johnson finished with a 12 point, 14 rebound double-double, but it was Laney Hartley’s hot start to the fourth quarter that eventually gave Nyssa the cushion they needed to hold off Burns 32-30, taking their first state title since 2007 and their second in school history. Kaitlyn Wright and Kaya Dobson both finished with good days for the Highlanders, but the 31-23 hole they found themselves in with 5:28 left was just too much to overcome.

Domino #2 was easily the most surprising of the trio: Union. Duo Callie Glenn and Kaylin Nowak shellacked Salem Academy for a combined 36 points, almost scoring as many as the entire Crusaders combined. The Bobcats were also aided by a 6-15 performance from downtown, helping push ahead a pace that they ultimately maintained and won with in Pendleton. Union didn’t do anything special, they were actually outdone in the final statistics from almost every category except the ones that matter: Rebounds, shooting percentage, scoreboard. It was a nitty, gritty defensive performance and some smooth shooting that ultimately got them over the top, taking their first title in school history 52-38 over Salem Academy. For Nowak and Glenn, it is the storybook ending to their high school careers at Union!

The final one dropped at close to 10 PM on Saturday night, as the Crane Mustangs pulled a three-peat state title run with a 56-47 win over Damascus Christian. The massive difference maker was a 22-0 run that Crane pulled in the second quarter, as Dani Clark literally had fire coming from her hands on 4-6 shooting from deep during the stretch. Kortney Doman’s four steals and forcing Damascus Christian into 13 turnovers certainly didn’t help the Eagles any, as the 22-0 run put Damascus Christian into a massive 34-15 deficit at the half. Damascus Christian did play better than Crane for three quarters of the game, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the massive blow they took in the second quarter, putting Crane on top of 1A again as three-peat state champions 56-47! Dani Clark and Kortney Doman combined for 33 points in the title win, while Laelie Rasmussen and Sierra Hale helped Damascus Christian’s comeback attempt with 19 and 11 points respectively.

It was a great night for Eastern Oregon, but more importantly a wakeup call and message for the state landscape. Yes, these girls can play and they need to be taken seriously. I’ll be the first to admit that there is bias towards the area consisting of Portland through Eugene, and that athletes from these areas tend to brush off those on the Oregon Coast, Southern Oregon, Central Oregon, and Eastern Oregon. Nyssa had to earn the respect, Union had to earn the respect, and Crane pretty much already had the respect. In the Spring, Grant Union shellacked teams on their way to the state runner-up in 2A/1A softball behind another Valley team: Kennedy. Clatskanie has ran the table in 3A hoops and softball for the past few years, and 1A has been marked by successes of teams from that hub of sorts in volleyball while Crane has ran away with the hoops in that class.

When you put it all together, it provides a better scope into how and why Eastern Oregon has to perform so well in order to gain the attention, respect, and love that the population hubs of Oregon already have. While most kids probably couldn’t find John Day, Union, Nyssa, or others on a map of Oregon, they need to start learning their geography and watching these teams better. I’ll definitely start observing them much closer after Saturday, and we need to start getting more of these teams involved in the conversations that are dominated by our population hubs. For this chapter of Oregon sports though, there are only three teams being discussed and they are all from Eastern Oregon. Until 2023, you can call them Queen….

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