What a week for the Camas High School girls basketball players.
The Papermakers captured second place in the 3A district tournament, at Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver. Camas knocked off Kelso twice in four days, and then defeated Mountain View for the first time this season to play for the championship against Prairie. The Falcons cooled off the savvy Papermakers in the finals to increase their perfect record to 15-0.
“You never want to lose in the end, but I’m proud of what the kids accomplished this week. We played four games, we took second and we’re going to region,” said Camas head coach Chuck Knight. “We want the kids to understand if you persevere through the difficult times, the good times are going to far outweigh the bad times.”
The Camas girls played hard for injured seniors Katelyn Henson and Melissa Williams. Many of them were experiencing the playoffs for the first time. Coach Knight, and fellow seniors Kat DeVera and Kayla Roche, could not more proud of their effort.
“Our underclassmen deserve all of the credit,” Roche said. “It’s not one person over the other, it’s all of us working together. It’s been phenomenal.”
“It’s neat seeing kids who were playing JV ball last year making huge contributions for us,” Knight said. “Every day, these girls are learning what it takes to be a good basketball player and a good team. We’ve got a long ways to go, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
The Papermakers kicked off their incredible week by beating Kelso 37-30 Feb. 7, at Prairie High School. Both teams finished tied for third place in league, and needed to play a tiebreaker for the third seed into the tournament. Sydney Allen led the Camas attack with 12 pounds and six rebounds. Lauren Neff added five points and 13 rebounds, and DeVera delivered five points and five assists.
When Camas and Kelso faced each other again in the quarterfinals Thursday, the Papermakers prevailed 61-48. Allen generated 15 points, four rebounds and four steals. Kendra Preuninger added 11 points, and Neff notched 10 points and six rebounds. DeVera dished six assists, the majority of them went to Allen for easy baskets under the hoop.
“Anybody can make those shots, it’s all about getting good passes from my teammates. All of the credit goes to them,” Allen said. “I’m really excited to go to the regional tournament. I got to be a part of that last year, but I didn’t get to play. I love the energy we bring on the court and from the bench. It helps a lot.”
After losing to Mountain View twice during the season, the Papermakers were finally vindicated when they defeated the Thunder 35-32 in the semifinals Friday. Camas led by six points several times in the second half, before a 3-pointer by DeVera gave the Papermakers a 32-25 advantage with about three minutes to go in the game. DeVera and Roche each scored eight points, and DeVera added six rebounds. Allen collected four points, five rebounds and four assists. Sydney Schwartz chipped in six points and six rebounds.
“Everybody contributed in terms of defense, passing and scoring,” Knight said. “Our synergy was good, and the girls were feeding off of each other. It was kind of contagious.”
The regional tournament begins tonight for the Camas girls, at Clover Park High School in Lakewood. The Papermakers are playing Enumclaw at 6 p.m.
“Our focus is to play hard, play smart and play together. If we get those three things right, that’s all you can ask for as a coach,” Knight said. “We want to go up there and compete. We want to be proud at the end of our run, whenever that is, just like we’re proud right now.”
League champion Camas found itself far away from the comforts of home Saturday, and it showed. The Hudson’s Bay Eagles soared to a 63-54 victory in the district championship game at Hudson’s Bay High School.
Three-point baskets by Bryan Butler, Jacob Kaler and Dobilas Zalpys kept the Papermakers within striking distance, but they could never get over the hump. A final 3-pointer by Kaler brought Camas within seven points with about a minute and a half to go in the game, but the Papermakers could not get any closer. Kaler finished with 22 points, Butler added 11, Marc Eppinger chipped in seven and Michael Neff netted six.
The Papermaker boys open the regional tournament Wednesday, at Clover Park High School in Lakewood. Camas challenges Highline at 6 p.m.