C-W girls’ basketball teams return to state

Camas High School girls' head basketball coach Scott Preuninger sets up drills in the Camas gym on Feb. 26. The Papermakers are heading back to state for the second consecutive year.

Camas High School all-league point guard Haley Hansen dribbles around chairs in the Camas gym on Monday Feb. 26, during one of the last practices before the Papermakers play in the state championships in the Tacoma Dome.

It’s been another spectacular year for girls basketball programs in Camas and Washougal. Both high school teams have earned their way to the state tournaments, and both have the big-time experience to know what to expect.

For the Washougal Panthers, this is their third consecutive trip to the state tournament in the Yakima SunDome.

Last year the Papermakers were the first Camas basketball team — boys or girls — to ever make it to the state tournament in Tacoma.

While the Washougal girls are comfortable in the SunDome, they have been teasing Brittney Knotts, their first year coach, that “you better follow us or you might get lost in there because it’s a really big place!”

Knotts, the assistant coach at Mountain View last year, said the community of Washougal has been amazing.

“People in Washougal have so much support for this team,” she said. “They follow us to away games. They follow us on social media, and now they are following us to state.”

The Panthers have been led all year by the talented junior Beyonce Bea. The 4.0 GPA student athlete is already being courted by several Division One programs.

“She is our rock and can do everything for us,” Knotts said. “She plays great down low with her size, but has the talent and speed to bring the ball up as our point guard.”

This year, the Panthers came out slow in the district tournament, losing to Columbia River. Washougal had their backs up against the wall and had to beat three teams in a row — Hockinson, Mark Morris and Woodland — to get to the regional tournament.

The Panthers played Fife in the regionals at Battle Ground and once again started slow, falling behind by double digits in the first quarter. That’s when junior Tianna Barnett came off the bench and really turned things around with great shooting and intense defense.

“We knew she was a leader on the team, and she is now finding her groove and confidence,” Knotts said. “Fife was a team we have never played before and while we watched game film, the girls really didn’t know what to expect.”

The Panthers ended up winning the regional game easily 55-38. They are scheduled to play last year’s state champion team, Lynden, in the SunDome on Wednesday, Feb. 28 (after press deadlines). The Post-Record will provide updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Camas advances to the postseason

Papermakers senior Courtney Clemmer was the Greater St. Helens League player of the year, but she suffered a back injury only seconds into the Papermakers’ first district game against Hazen.

She wasn’t able to play, but the team rallied and won the game in overtime.

“She really came in and gutted it out and played through pain the next few district games, but now she’s 100 percent healthy and we are thrilled about that,” said Papermaker coach Scott Preuninger.

Courtney is a team leader who works hard but also knows how to have fun.

“We really like to sing and dance in the locker room,” Clemmer said. “Right now, one of our rituals is to sing ‘High School Musical 16,’ because we are at the end of our season just like in the song.”

The Camas girls find themselves in the same position as last year when they lost at regionals but still qualified for state. Camas played the state’s number one team, Central Valley, on their home court in Spokane, Saturday, Feb. 24, losing 54-17.

Preuninger said the final score is misleading.

“You look at the score and might think we didn’t play well, but we were up 8 to 2 and were only down three points after the first quarter,” he said. “Overall, I was pretty pleased.”

The Papermakers fell behind to Central Valley when Clemmer got into foul trouble and the Papermaker all-league point guard, Haley Hanson, could no longer play because of an illness.

The good news is that the Papermakers are heading to the state tournament at the Tacoma Dome, healthy and confident because they are playing Union, a cross-town rival team they beat twice this year.

It will be Union’s first trip to the state basketball tournament.

“I really believe we have the advantage because we’ve already been there and experienced the lights, the people, the excitement and this year we are focused on dominating there,” Clemmer said.

Camas is scheduled to take on Union Wednesday, Feb. 28 (after press deadlines). The Post-Record will provide updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Both the Papermakers and Panthers have fought through adversity this year to return to the state championships. Both teams have shown an uncanny ability to play well with their backs up against the wall this season. Now comes the ultimate test. Courtney Clemmer and her teammates keep singing a line in “High School Musical 16.” Let’s get it done!