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NYSSA – When the Nyssa girls basketball team is inbounding the ball from under the basket, opponents can guarantee the pass is a lob to 6-feet, 5-inch Gracie Johnson followed by a quick shot 95 percent of the time. On Thursday, Feb. 17, playing for the Eastern Oregon League tournament title, the Burns Hilanders played the odds with just three seconds showing on the game clock.
Like a table in Reno, sometimes the odds don’t work out. Coming around the backside, Bulldog senior Brooklyn Johns took the easy pass while standing alone under the basket, converting the easy lay up to give the Dawgs a 60-58 victory over the Hilanders and an EOL tournament title.
The win guarantees Nyssa a home game for the first round of the OSAA state 3A playoffs and also pushed the Bulldogs to the top spot in the state rankings as of 10:52 a.m. on Feb. 18. Burns, ranked fourth, now waits hoping to also host a first round matchup.
A packed gym Thursday evening may have wrongfully believed the game was over at the half. In a physical first half marked by 19 total fouls, the first points of the game came from the free throw line. Burns freshman Akylah Kaino connected on one of two free throws to place the first points on the board.
After Johnson hit a short jumper to place Nyssa on the board, the Bulldogs led 15-9 at the end of the first quarter. Nyssa extended the lead to 34-23 as senior Kate Vineyard terrorized Burns on the offensive rebounding side, putting in 13 points in the first half.
Burns senior Kaitlyn Wright apparently listened during the halftime speech from Burns coach Kris Saunders. Ending her night with a game high 25 points, Wright had 19 of those 25 in the second half to place the Hilanders back into contention.
Burns closed the gap throughout the third quarter and with 4 minutes, 34 seconds left in the game, Nyssa led 50-47. Burns tied the game at 52 points off a basket by Kaya Dobson and took the lead for the first time, 54-52 off a Wright basket with the clock showing 2:14.
A Johns basket for Nyssa again knotted the score up at 54 points. With 45 seconds left in the game, Dobson hit one of two free throws to give Burns at 57-55 advantage. Just 12 seconds later, Nyssa senior Malerie Long connected on a long three-point shot to put Nyssa up, 58-57.
Wright, this time from the free throw line and with 19 seconds showing on the clock, connected on one of two free throws to again lock up the game, this time with both teams having 58 points. A Nyssa missed shot followed by a rebound last touched by Burns set up the last play under the basket.
“I give a tremendous amount of credit to Burns tonight,” said Nyssa coach Jeremy Chamberlain. “They came out in the second half with intensity and played well. I was happy we stayed with our mental toughness during their run.”
Chamberlain was quick to credit Vineyard and her team high 20 points on the night.
”Kate carried this team tonight,” said Chamberlain.
In addition to Vineyard, Johnson’s inside game added 17 points for Nyssa. Clarita Arizmendi added 8 points and Laney Hartley added 7 points.
Wright’s 25 points was aided by teammate Kaya Dobson’s 15 points. Showing promise for the future of the Hilanders, Kaino ended with 9 points.
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