CORVALLIS — If you would have told Todd Ervin that Bend High would limit the defending state champion to nearly 20 points below its scoring average, the Lava Bears coach would have been convinced that an upset was imminent.
Unfortunately for No. 6-seeded Bend, the Intermountain Conference champions could not muster much scoring themselves.
Shooting just 27.8 percent from the field at Gill Coliseum on Thursday, the Lava Bears fell to No. 2 La Salle 40-26 in the semifinals of the Class 5A girls basketball state tournament. Bend also lost to La Salle in last year’s semifinals.
“They’re pretty good and press you well,” Ervin said of the Falcons. “We shot 28 percent for the game. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, 28 percent is not going to win you a whole lot of games, especially against a team like this.”
After again falling one step shy of its first-ever appearance in the state championship, Bend (21-5 overall) will play in the third-place game at 1:30 p.m. Friday against No. 5 Silverton. The Lava Bears took fifth last year at state to match the program’s best-ever finish.
“The biggest thing about La Salle is they have that spurtability, where they can just get hot in a hurry,” Ervin said. “They had a couple instances where they did that, and we just could not score. We had really good looks, I thought, but we did not shoot the ball well enough in a game like this to hang around.”
Kaycee Brown hit 1 of 2 free throws 26 seconds into the game for what would be the Bears’ only lead of the afternoon. The IMC champs were 4-for-21 shooting in the first half, but La Salle could not take full advantage. The Falcons from Milwaukie, who averaged 58.9 points per game heading into Thursday, shot 35.3 percent from the field over the first two periods, including 2-for-10 from 3-point range, and led just 16-11 at the half.
Then came a show of La Salle’s “spurtability.”
The Northwest Conference champion took control in the third quarter, connecting on 4 of 5 shots during an 11-2 run to kick off the second half that staked the Falcons (22-4) to a 27-13 lead. Bend’s Kayla Rambo hit a layup to start the fourth quarter to trim the gap to 30-21, but the Falcons responded with an 8-2 spurt to go up 38-23 midway through the quarter.
And with less than two minutes to play, Taycee Wedin hit a jumper to provide the final score and send La Salle into the championship game. The Falcons, who are 38-0 against 5A competition over the past two seasons, will play No. 1 Marist at 6:45 p.m. Friday in search of their third state championship in four years.
“They have a tremendous player in Taycee Wedin,” Ervin said, noting that, in Tuesday’s quarterfinals, Wedin set girls all-classification career record for most made 3-pointers made in Oregon high school history. “And (Bend’s) Kylee Roath, with support from others, she was doing the majority of the work and playing her really tough. … We were really pleased with that. For the most part, we did pretty well.”
Wedin finished with 10 points for La Salle. Emily Niebergall led the Falcons with 11 points and eight rebounds, and Addison Wedin, Taycee’s younger sister, had 10 points.
Brown led Bend with eight points and five rebounds. Rambo added five points, and Sydney Gardner had four for the Lava Bears, whose 14 turnovers resulted in 20 points for La Salle.
The season is not done yet for Bend, which can record the program’s best finish at state with a win over Silverton. That will not be an easy task for a Lava Bears team that has scored just 26 points in each of its two tournament games while facing a Silverton team that has allowed the second-fewest points per game in 5A this season.
“Hopefully we’ll come out with energy and ready to play,” Ervin said. “Finishing third isn’t too shabby. … It’ll be tough. We’re going to have to find some offense, and unfortunately we’ll have to do it against one of the best defensive teams in 5A.”