A new coach. Some new players. And a brand new outlook on basketball life for the Evergreen girls basketball program.
A year after losing every game on the schedule, the Plainsmen are the Class 4A District 4 champions.
Justine Joudrey made four 3-pointers and scored 17 points Thursday night, leading Evergreen to a 29-24 victory over Class 4A Greater St. Helens League champion Skyview.
Yes, 53 combined points.
And while no one will call it a pretty basketball game, no one at Evergreen is complaining about the result.
Joudrey, who injured her right arm in the closing minutes, was the first to step up on the ladder to cut down one of the nets at Skyview High School. With her arm in a sling — she said will get X-rays but hopes it is just a bone bruise — she needed help from teammates on the proper etiquette.
“I’ve never done it before,” said Joudrey, who played for Heritage last year.
“I dreamed of this since I was a little kid. This is all I worked for, for this moment right now. I’ve watched everyone else cut down the net. Now I get to do it. It’s the greatest feeling ever.”
Evergreen coach Jay Foreman knows some may wonder how his team got so good so fast. Of course, there was an influx of talent, as well as his fresh perspective on the game. But, he said, the bottom line is this team, this year, worked for this championship.
He was in tears watching his players on the ladder. Then, when it was his turn, he held the championship trophy high and pointed to his team, his fans.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I was happy they stuck with it, worked so hard. With all the controversy that we’ve had, this is a very proud moment. These girls stuck with it.”
After a sluggish first quarter for both teams, Evergreen picked up some breathing room in the second quarter, outscoring the Storm 11-5. Joudrey had nine of her points in the period.
“As soon as we stepped on the floor, I just had the feeling we were going to win this game,” Joudrey said. “No doubt in my mind.”
Joudrey outscored the Storm 14-11 in the first half.
But the final score proves this game had little to do with offense.
“This is why we won this game, because of our defense,” said Joudrey, who also had three steals and seven rebounds. “Jay always tells us defense wins games. That’s what happened tonight.”
Skyview missed its first 12 shots of the game and ended the night 8 for 57, 14 percent. The Storm had fewer turnovers and more offensive rebounds than Evergreen and ended up taking 20 more shots. Didn’t matter, not with the proverbial lid over the basket.
Delaney Keser led Skyview with eight points. Brooke Bowen and Macy Mukensnabl each scored five points and combined for 19 rebounds.
Shamerica Scott, who played for Fort Vancouver last year, had 14 rebounds for the Plainsmen, giving her 27 in the two district games this week.
“This is us,” she said after the post-game ceremony. “We know we’re the best team in Southwest Washington, and we proved it tonight. And we have the best coach in Southwest Washington.”
Amber Berry, one of six seniors on the team and who endured so much losing during the previous three seasons, said all the pain is worth it now.
“Amazing. I love everybody on this team,” Berry said. “We’re a family. It’s the best feeling ever.”
A championship feeling … for the Evergreen girls basketball team.
Evergreen will host a one-game playoff for a berth to the 4A state tournament at 7 p.m. Saturday against a District 2 opponent. Skyview, as the No. 2 seed from district, will travel north for Saturday’s playoff.