SUTHERLIN — The Sutherlin Bulldogs were among the top Class 3A girls basketball teams during the regular season.
Can they take their game up another notch this weekend and bring home a fifth state championship in seven seasons?
Second-seeded Sutherlin (23-2) will take on No. 10 Vale (17-8) at 8:15 p.m. on Thursday in a quarterfinal game of the state tournament at North Bend High School.
In other quarterfinals, No. 9 Harrisburg (20-6) meets No. 1 Clatskanie (20-2) at 1:30 p.m., No. 5 Brookings-Harbor (19-6) faces No. 4 Willamina (21-6) at 3:15 p.m. and No. 6 Burns (22-5) plays No. 3 Pleasant Hill (20-3) at 6:30 p.m.
The last two days of the tournament will be held at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay.
Sutherlin’s only losses this season have come to two No. 1- ranked clubs — defending state champion Clatskanie and 4A Philomath. The Bulldogs have defeated Brookings twice and Willamina and Pleasant Hill once.
The Bulldogs are seeking their first state title in 3A after winning five in 4A (2008, 2014-17).
“This is the goal everybody had back in November. Get to the state tournament and give yourself a chance to get a trophy,” Sutherlin coach Josh Grotting said. “We’re right there and this is a pretty self-motivated group.
“There’s only one team left that will win three games, and we hope that’s us. We have a lot of work to do. There are eight teams there that could go 3-0. Maybe with the exception of Clatskanie, the rest of us could go 0-2 and be out by Friday afternoon.”
Sutherlin has three seniors on its roster who got to experience the school’s last state crown in 2017 — Kiersten Haines, Abigail Masterfield and Carmen Ganger. Haines and Masterfield played in the tournament.
“I’m just super anxious,” Masterfield said. “We got the feeling of it as freshmen and we were nervous, and we’re prepared to help our freshmen go through what we went through. It’s a great opportunity for us to come back as seniors.
“We’re all back at zero, going head to head and see who advances next. The lowest ranking team can make it to the championship game, you just don’t know. You can’t lower your standards to teams you’re going to play ... you play everyone like they’re your hardest competition.”
Haines, who missed last year with an ACL injury, has started since she was a freshman. Masterfield and Ganger are reserves this season, filling their roles well.
“We both play important roles and give the starters some breaks,” Ganger said. “I don’t mind not starting, I’m just glad to be part of such a great team.”
“As seniors, we’re role models now,” Masterfield added. “People the underclassmen turn to. It doesn’t matter if you start or not, because you end up going in. I have my role to play.”
The Bulldogs advanced to the tournament with a 49-32 win over No. 15 Portland Adventist last Friday at home. Vale, which won the Eastern Oregon League regular season title before losing to Burns in the league tournament, knocked off No. 7 Oregon Episcopal 48-45 in Portland.
“I’m pretty excited, a little nervous,” Sutherlin junior forward Paige Bailey said. “It’s my first time (going to the state tournament), so hopefully it’s a good experience. As long as we make it to the championship game, I’d be fine. I’d like to match up with Clatskanie, because I think we can beat them if we play them again.
“We’re pretty prepared. If we just play like we should, we’ll do fine.”
The Bulldogs are expected to open with a starting five of Haines (12.7 points, 3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.1 steals), junior Amy Dickover (12.7 points, 8 rebounds, 2.2 steals), junior Jadyn Vermillion (10.5 points, 4 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 2.4 steals), freshman Micah Wicks (11.3 points, 5.6 assists, 3 rebounds, 4.2 steals) and Bailey (7.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists).
Grotting expects a challenge from Vale, which won state crowns in 2011, ’12 and ’14. The Vikings have three seniors, five juniors, three sophomores and one freshman on their roster.
Vale went two-and-out last year in the tournament.
“I felt Vale was the darkhorse around the state the whole year,” Grotting said. “Drawing them in the first round is a tough draw. They play extremely hard, they’re tough Eastern Oregon kids and are up in your face (defensively) the whole time.”
The Vale-Sutherlin winner will play the Burns-Pleasant Hill winner at 3:15 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. The championship contest is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Saturday.
“On a good Sutherlin day, we’re pretty unbeatable,” Wicks said. “But right now we can beat anybody, but also lose to anybody. We’re down to the final eight, so everybody has to be good.”