By Andy Buhler, Columbian staff writer
The Camas girls gathered in the locker room up 15 on Union, and the first thing they collectively said: not again.
In the first matchup between the teams, Camas saw its early 20-point lead steadily shrink to two in the second half as Union exploded in the third quarter with energy.
But the Papermakers weren’t about to let that happen again. Not on a night where a win meant they would clinch a league title.
“It was the first thing the girls talked about,” Camas coach Scott Preuninger said.
Camas scored early in the second half, and didn’t lose hold of its lead, beating Union 53-33 on Thursday night to clinch the top spot in the 4A Greater St. Helens League.
Even with the halftime lead, Camas knew with Union it could not afford to drop in energy.
“We didn’t care if we were up by 100, we were going to go until the very end,” Camas forward Courtney Clemmer said.
The Papermakers now sit at 7-0 in league play with one remaining game (against Battle Ground on Monday) and will now open the playoffs at home.
They avoided the potential scenario of playing a tiebreaker rematch with Union to determine playoff seeding next week.
The Titans now are looking to lock up second place and travel north for the postseason.
Rebekah Barney finished a contested layup early in the fourth quarter to bring the Titans within 12 points — the smallest margin of the second half.
Then Clemmer mustered two big blocks on Union guard Mason Oberg and the Papermakers held on for the rest of the way.
Clemmer led all scorers with 16 points.
Camas had no issues producing points on offense and get stops on defense, something it attributed to team chemistry.
“We’ve been talking about it all week,” Clemmer said. “This is the game all season where we can’t be snapping at each other, it’s all pointing, high-fives, cheering–everything. If not technically, then mentally this was one of our best games.”
Camas held Union scoreless in the second quarter until Oberg drew free throw and sunk the one with 17 seconds left in the first half. She then stole the ball from Camas off the ensuing inbound and drilled a long two-pointer as time expired. Camas led by 15 at half.
“Our defense kept us in the game the entire game,” Preuninger said. “They really never got in a rhythm.”
After Camas’ 46-44 win over Union on Jan. 9, the Papermakers sought to change up its defensive schemes in an effort to never lose a lead like that again.
So an implementation of the most basic defense–the 2-3 zone–proved to be helpful for Camas, particularly on the boards.
“We weren’t getting any rebounding out of the zone we were running. It keeps Courtney inside,” Preuninger said. “That’s the main thing. We tried something, it was successful for us.”
Union didn’t have an individual scorer in double figures. Mason Oberg scored eight points and Mackenzie Lewis added seven. The Titans never found enough momentum to truly threaten.
Camas started the season 4-6 in non-league play. With the win on Thursday, the Papermakers are one win away from running the table in league play.
“I never lost faith in my team. Going from last year into this year we knew we were going to have a super strong team,” Camas guard Jillian Webb said. “Even though we were down in the beginning of the season, I knew our team was going to follow through and be exactly where we are today.”