Silverton girls coach Tal Wold told me on the court after the defending Class 5A champion Foxes lost to La Salle 42-28 on March 10 in this year’s final that the color of the trophy didn’t really matter.
It all made sense, actually. Last year’s Foxes team featured Alia Parsons, a transcendent high school player who earned a Division I scholarship. This year’s squad was more of a blue-collar group, thriving on good old-fashioned GRIT, which was stenciled on the back of their warmups.
The Foxes lost twice to Corvallis in the Mid-Willamette Conference season but came back to beat the Spartans 37-34 in the state semifinals in a triple-overtime game for the ages.
Senior Kayce McLoughlin nailed a 3-pointer for what proved to be the winning points, but it easily could have been any one of five or six Foxes who could have come through in the clutch.
Junior Maggie Roth made first-team all-tournament, with teammates Hailey Smisek and McLoughlin on the second team. No other squad in the eight-team field put that many players on the all-star unit, another sign of the team’s balance.
All five Silverton starters earned all-MWC honors, with Smisek on the first team, Roth and junior Brooke McCarty on the second team and McLoughlin and senior Hannah Munson receiving honorable mention. Freshman Paige Alexander and seniors Elena Smisek and Madison Ulven played well off the bench as Wold rotated players in and out like a mad scientist. Wondrous things can happen if you exhibit enough GRIT.
Overall, the hoops machine seems to be percolating well in the region. The Kennedy girls team, which won the Class 2A title in 2016, won the Tri-River Conference regular-season title this season and once again advanced to Pendleton.
Unfortunately, the Trojans ran into Western Mennonite and the dynamic Madison Hull in the semifinals. Hull scored 35 points in the Pioneers’ 52-37 victory. Kennedy bounced back to beat Imbler 39-30 in the third-place game, and Trojans junior Kaylin Cantu was named to the all-tournament first team after leading the event in steals with 11.
The Silverton boys, who won the 5A title in 2015, came within one win of state for the second year in a row, staying with No. 2 Churchill for a half before falling 62-52 to the eventual runners-up.
The Foxes will miss senior Elijah Nielsen’s leadership and post presence, but the rest of the team returns, including first-team all-Mid-Willamette Conference performer Cade Roth. Sophomore Levi Nielsen received honorable mention, and freshman David Gonzales, who scored in double figures in both state playoff games, also looks poised to make future contributions.
Meanwhile, former Silverton standout Julian Downey, helped lead Santiam to the Class 2A title in Pendleton. Downey, one of the sharpshooters on the Foxes’ 2015 Class 5A championship team, scored 33 points in the Wolverines’ come-from-behind 57-54 win against Stanfield in the March 4 final. Julian’s brother, sophomore Jonah, poured in 21 in the title game and both Downeys were named to the all-tournament first team.
Bowling: Silverton participated in the state championships Feb. 25-26 at KingPins in Portland. The Foxes’ girls squad, led by Madi Burton, finished 11th in the team race. The boys took 12th. Burton recorded 25 strikes and 23 spares in her 60 frames and finished fourth on the all-star points list. Also participating were Korina Chadwick (14th), Autumn Belville (36th), Grace Walsinger (61st), Abby Duda (64th) and Maggie Buckholz (97th).
Rigo Rios led the boys squad with 31 strikes and 20 spares. He finished 13th as an individual. Also participating for the boys were Lance Brown (24th), Rylan Galvez (31st), Jace Kincaid (42nd), Colby Kemp (91st) and Koa Yoast (104th).
Dance: Silverton will perform its preliminary routine at 5 p.m. Friday at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The finals are Saturday.