The Camas High School girls basketball players didn’t just want to get to the Tacoma Dome. They wanted to win there, too.
The Papermakers checked another goal off the list after they defeated the Eastlake Wolves 44-36 March 1, in the first round of the 4A state girls tournament.
Haley Hanson led the way with 16 points. She hit a 3-pointer during a 16-0 run for Camas between the second and third quarters. After Eastlake rallied within two points in the fourth quarter, Hanson went 5-for-6 from the foul line to help the Papermakers pull away.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Hanson said. “On the bus, we were all saying, ‘We’re not going to lose this game.’ We wanted to prove ourselves and put Camas on the map. We finished that game, and it was the best feeling ever.”
Emma Jones got Camas going with seven points, nine rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot.
“I love defense. It’s my favorite part of the game,” Jones said. “Getting those steals, especially in big games like this, is so rewarding. It makes you feel like all those practices and all the time you have put in pays off.”
Eastlake started out with a six-point lead in the first quarter. Maggie Wells came off the bench for the Papermakers, scored six points and grabbed five rebounds.
“Just had to win,” Wells said. “It was win or go home. Just had to do it.”
Courtney Clemmer collected six points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. Madison Freemon added seven points and five rebounds.
Freemon tied the score at 17 on a 3-pointer in the second quarter. Camas then scored 16 unanswered points to build a 30-17 advantage.
Eastlake rallied with two threes in the fourth quarter. Jones countered with a big basket. Hanson then got hot, and scored nine of her 16 points in the game’s final four minutes.
Camas lost to Bellarmine Prep and Kentlake in the final minutes of the previous two games. Head coach Scott Preuninger said this time, the Papermakers were ready.
“Even when they made their run and we were missing close range shots, the girls never lost their composure,” he said. “More than anything, they stayed together and got it done on both ends. I couldn’t be happier for them.”
Defense not enough
Camas held Moses Lake to 12 points in the second half, but trailed by 17 at the break and didn’t have enough time to come back.
The Papermakers rallied within eight, but the Chiefs held on for a 46-36 victory in the quarterfinals March 2.
“We didn’t start out with the same mentality,” said Teague Schroeder. “We came together and tried to do as much as we could. We’re definitely a fighting team. We didn’t give up and I’m proud of us.”
Neither team shot particularly well from the field. Camas only made 13 of its 44 attempts. Moses Lake went 14 for 36, but nailed six timely 3-pointers.
The Chiefs got hot with four threes in the first half. Jillian Webb, Hanson and Schroeder delivered threes for the Papermakers, but Camas couldn’t sustain any sort of offensive momentum.
The Papermakers held Moses Lake scoreless for about five minutes in the third quarter, but could only come up with three points of their own during that time. The Chiefs ended the drought with another 3-pointer.
Clemmer scored six points in the fourth quarter. She finished the game with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Seniors reflect on journey
Hanson and Schroeder hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first half for Camas. Meghan Finley also chipped one in from long range, but Sunnyside shined much brighter and defeated the Papermakers 45-34, on March 3.
After winning league and making it to the Tacoma Dome for the first time in school history, the Camas girls can hang their hats on becoming one of the top eight teams in the state.
“No one likes to end their season on a loss,” Jones said. “I’ll never forget this team. We have so many memories. There’s not enough time to tell them all. I will hold onto those memories forever and cherish all the times we spent together.”
Finley played inspired basketball for the Papermakers on a sprained foot.
“I will cherish that we are the first Camas girls or boys basketball team to ever make it to the Tacoma Dome. It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl. To do it my senior year makes it all the more special,” she said. “This team, we have overcome so much adversity. And that’s what got us here.”
Camas bounced back from heartbreaking losses to Bellarmine Prep, in the finals of the bi-district tournament, and Kentlake, in the regional round before state. The Papermakers stepped on to the court at the Tacoma Dome for the first time and defeated Eastlake, a team that eliminated them from the playoffs in 2016.
“You don’t really remember the games as much as the people you played with,” Schroeder said. “It’s upsetting that we lost, but you have to think of the accomplishments. We made so much history together this year.”
Finley, Jones and Schroeder hope this is just the beginning of more Camas basketball teams getting to the Tacoma Dome. Now all current and future Papermakers know this is possible.
“I hope they get back here,” Schroeder said. “I hope they go further than we have.”