Papermakers are streak-breakers

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 

For Haley Smith, the scene felt like some sort of alternate reality.

“I thought, ‘Is this a dream? Did this really happen,’ ” the Camas High School senior said. “And then I saw my teammates crying, and I knew we had done it.”

What the Papermakers had done was to end one of the most epic streaks in Clark County high school sports. Camas defeated Prairie 59-46 in girls basketball, becoming the first local school in more than 10 years to do so.

Prairie entered Friday’s contest with a winning streak of 136 games against league opponents, dating to a loss against Battle Ground on Jan. 31, 2000.

Not that ending the streak was Camas’ primary goal Friday. With the victory, the Papermakers won the Class 3A district tournament, a title that began taking root during a two-point loss to Prairie a couple weeks ago.

“We realized we could beat them and not just compete with them,” said junior Melissa Williams, a 6-foot ball-handler who had seven points, six assists, and five steals.

Camas controlled the game much of the way, building a 29-22 halftime lead.

“We wanted it; we believed,” Camas coach Kent Thomas said. “It was our mind set; it wasn’t Xs and Os. They’ve always had the heart; it took all year to channel it.”

Prairie rallied at the start of the second half, forging a 31-31 tie behind four quick baskets by 6-foot-2 freshman Emily Rowe, who finished with 19 points.

But Camas regained control behind the scoring of Smith — who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds — and a defense that held Prairie to 33 percent shooting from the field. Aside from Rowe, the Falcons shot 22 percent from the field.

“Camas was more ready to play for some reason,” Prairie coach Al Aldridge said. “They shot the ball better. We got good looks, we just didn’t hit shots.”

Holding a 51-43 lead with three minutes to play, Camas put the game away behind three long shots — two of them 3-pointers — from Kendra Preuninger.

“I’ve dreamed of beating Prairie since the first day I walked into high school,” Preuninger said.

Considering that Preuninger is a freshman, that’s not as long as some people could only dream of beating Prairie.

“It means everything,” Thomas said, as his players were cutting down the nets at Hudson’s Bay in honor of the district championship. “I mean, just look at them.”

For both teams, Friday’s game was a stepping stone on the path toward a possible state tournament berth. Camas earns the GSHL’s No. 1 seed for the bi-district tournament, earning a home game for the first round on Feb. 27.. Prairie will begin the tournament on the road.

They will be joined by No. 3 seed Union in the 16-team field.

But Friday wasn’t a time to look ahead or dream of the state tournament. Not when there was history to be made.

“We’ve always known Prairie is a powerhouse team,” Williams said. “Oh my gosh, we just beat them. I can’t believe it.”