Alana Stephens, Miranda Gonzalez and Promise Bond have been teammates for four years on the Hudson’s Bay girls basketball team.
But their time on the court goes beyond that.
“I’ve been playing with (Bond) since the eighth grade, playing against (Gonzalez) since the eighth grade,” Stevens said. “We’re all seniors now. We’re all playing together. Our connection is stronger than it’s even been, and I think that shows on the court with the three of us.”
Bond added, ”Miranda, I’ve played with her since Boys and Girls Club (basketball).”
However, the trio’s connection to rest of the Hudson’s Bay roster only dates back to the first day of practice this season in November.
That’s because the roster consists of the those three seniors, plus five freshmen.
“And we have our one sophomore,” Bay head coach Alexis Gleason said.
Despite having a roster of two core groups separated by three years in age — which is a lot when you’re a teenager — the Eagles have made it work this year.
“It’s a credit to all of them,” Gleason said. “We had those conversations in the beginning. These kids have not played together, did not have a lot of chemistry. We talked about being realistic about the idea of me having to use a five-, or six- or maybe a seven-player rotation. And they all had to be OK with that.”
Gleason said Stephens, Gonzalez and Bond had to step forward and not only take on the brunt of the playing minutes — it is not unusual for them to play all 32 minutes — but also be mentors to their younger teammates.
“When I came into this program last year, they already had this level of camaraderie that I actually got welcomed into,” Gleason said. “It has helped to bring these young kids into that. … It’s contagious, and they bring a level of trust and companionship with each other. They’re actually a really close team, and it helps in those tough times to not pull apart and not to get away from each other.”
That was on display Monday night, which was Senior Night before a big league matchup against Washougal.
A close game early, Washougal was able to open a double-digit in the second half. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Panthers’ sixth 3-pointer of the night put them up 45-34.
But then the Eagles rallied.
“We knew we had to stay one with each other,” Gonzalez said. “Because of the crowd and the student section, we knew we had to play together and play within ourselves, and not let the outside noise get to us.”
Gonzalez hit a 3-pointer to get Bay started. She followed up with a steal and a layup to cut the deficit to 47-44 with 56 seconds left.
Then Bond got a backcourt steal, which led to a basket inside to Stephens with 40 seconds left to make a 47-46.
But in the most pivotal moment of the game, the Eagles had to rely on one of their younger teammates.
When Stephens was guarded, Bond inbounded to freshman guard Olivia Carroll, who then found Bond open for the go-ahead basket with six seconds to play.
“The original play was (that) I was supposed to dish it to Alana, just give her the lob and let her get the shot,” Bond said. “But they had two people on her, so I couldn’t get it to her. So I dished it out to our other point guard, Olivia Carroll. And I kind of hopped in there and saw that the lane was wide open, and I got her attention. I’m just lucky she saw me.”
The 48-47 win put Bay alone in third place in the 2A Greater St. Helens League at 9-5. If the Eagles can beat Woodland on Wednesday, they will lock up third place in the league and advance to the district playoffs.
Gleason said the win was pure team effort, from those three seniors, the lone sophomore and all those freshmen, even those players who never got into the game but supported their teammates from the bench.
“I told them on the bench, ‘you know those times when you are watching those movies and you hear them talk about that magic, that spark that people think sometimes can be almost a cliché?’ ” Gleason said. “I told them they needed to find that tonight. Let it be that magic electricity that gets your through. It was at home in front of our crowd and our parents. And they absolutely deserved to get a dramatic win like that, even with as many gray hairs as they tried to give me.”