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Adversity aside, Evergreen girls work together to beat Mountain View in league tiebreaker

Plainsmen beat Thunder 56-41 to claim No. 1 seed to bi-district playoffs

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: February 6, 2024, 10:40pm
9 Photos
Adrian Wright of Evergreen takes a shot against Sophia Wright (14) of Mountain View in a 3A Greater St. Helens League tiebreaker girls basketball game at Camas High School on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024.
Adrian Wright of Evergreen takes a shot against Sophia Wright (14) of Mountain View in a 3A Greater St. Helens League tiebreaker girls basketball game at Camas High School on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. (Tim Martinez/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

CAMAS — Many teams can talk about overcoming adversity, but few have had to deal with as much of it as the Evergreen girls basketball team.

Injuries, illness, personal issues off the court. One player was even involved in a car crash.

“I’m even surprised some of the girls stayed on the team, with all they had to go through,” head coach Charles Neal said. “Like I’m surprised I had a team to finish the season because if the girls wanted to quit, I would not have held it against them.”

But the girls did not quit.

They didn’t quit on themselves. They didn’t quit on each other. And they didn’t quit on a season that started off with Evergreen going 4-7.

The Plainsmen rallied to earn a share of the 3A Greater St. Helens League title. And on Tuesday, they rallied again to beat Mountain View 56-41 in a league tiebreaker to earn the top seed to the bi-district tournament.

“Being a losing team after winning the league championship (last year), they were just fighting a lot of doubt,” Neal said. “It just took a lot of counseling, believing in ourselves, coming back to work and doing the same diligent work every day. And then finally, when they started to see the difference in themselves, it was like ‘hey, maybe we can do this.’ ”

Junior Adrian Wright said Evergreen just started to pull together as a team.

“In the beginning, we weren’t really jelling as a team,” Wright said. “We had some new people coming into the program. But our practices got more intense and we were really able to jell together. And now I think we all play well together, and that’s what really brought us up.”

That cohesiveness was on display in Tuesday’s tiebreaker game.

With Wright scoring 13 points, Evergreen was able to take a 25-20 lead into halftime. But Mountain View came out hot in the second half, taking a 28-27 lead.

That’s when Evergreen turned up the intensity on defense to retake a 38-33 lead, heading into the fourth quarter.

Six different players scored in the final quarter, including two big 3-pointers by senior Christian Nguyen, to help Evergreen pull away.

“After school, I stayed and I got up shots,” Nguyen said. “A lot of shots, so it would translate into the game.”

Wright added: “She just kept shooting, honestly. We tell her all the time (to shoot). She’s one of our most consistent shooters. So like we keep telling her to shoot. Even when she’s off, just shoot, shoot, shoot. And they ended up falling for us in the second half.”

Wright finished with a game-high 20 points, and Nguyen added 16 for Evergreen, which will host Timberline of Lacey on Friday with a chance to secure a berth to the regional round of state.

“Being that we were out in the first round last year, we’re really just locked in, trying to get that playoff so we’re off to state,” Wright said.

Against Evergreen’s stuff defense, Mountain View’s leading scorer, Nina Peterson, did not have a field goal. Layla Senderson scored 11 points to lead the Thunder, who will host Capital of Olympia on Friday in a loser-out game. Mountain View (15-5) needs to win three games – the first two being loser-out games – to advance to state.

Tuesday’s win pushed Evergreen over .500 for the first time since starting 3-2 on Dec. 8. But Neal said it did much more than that.

“For us, it was more like validation,” Neal said. “We started the year out slow, and we heard a lot of talk about what Evergreen wasn’t going to be this year. ‘Evergreen is done. They had their run, but it’s over with now.’ I just told our girls we just need to believe in ourselves. We don’t need other people to believe in us if we believe in us. And that’s just what it boiled down to.”

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