By Grant Lucas

The Bulletin

REDMOND — Three games remain in the regular season, but for Summit, the playoffs began this week.

In a tight race for the third and final postseason-qualifying spot out of the Intermountain Conference, the Storm took a giant step toward securing that bid Thursday night. Senior leadership helped Summit withstand a third-quarter surge by Redmond High and claim a 53-48 girls basketball win.

“We talked about that before the Mountain View game (on Tuesday), that the next two games were must-wins for us if we want to keep going,” said Storm coach Lynnette Landis, noting that her team used last Friday’s win over West Salem as a slingshot into Summit’s final few games of the regular season.

“After that West Salem game, we just got on a nice little roll. The kids got some good confidence. We leapfrogged off that game. They knew what was on the line tonight for them to stay in third place.”

The Storm (4-5 IMC, 8-11 overall) entered Thursday’s matchup with a one-game lead over Redmond for third place in the conference standings. The teams split their first two games, and a win was vital to keep postseason hopes alive.

Summit appeared to be on the brink of pulling away in the second quarter, as the Storm drilled a trio of 3-pointers, including two by Taylor West, during a 16-3 run that resulted in a commanding 27-12 lead midway through the period. The Storm went into the half on top 29-16 and well on their way to their third straight win.

“We had a halftime chat,” chuckled Panthers coach Angela Capps, “about playing with more intensity and more energy. Summit was playing hard, hard defense, and we were having a hard time getting into our offense.”

After the intermission, Capps added, “We played a little more inspired.”

Redmond’s Ava Kitchin took over in the third quarter, helping the Panthers (2-7, 7-13) open the period with 11 straight points, capped by a Kitchin offensive rebound and putback, to trim the gap to 29-27 with less than three minutes to play in the quarter. Kitchin scored eight of her game-high 17 points in the third, and Jordan Fox followed with a layup to give the Panthers their first lead, at 37-35, since early in the first quarter.

The Storm, though, regained control, as Healy Bledsoe buried a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Summit a 38-37 edge heading into the fourth quarter. Bledsoe accounted for eight of the Storm’s nine points in the period, and that clutch shot, Landis said, “obviously sparked our team.”

In the fourth period, Hailee Neibauer took command for Summit, scoring 10 of her 16 points over the final eight minutes to help the Storm keep Redmond at arm’s length. With under two minutes remaining, Bledsoe provided the back-breaker with a layup that staked the Storm to a 50-43 lead as the visitors took a firm grasp of third place in the IMC.

“As a senior leader, all three of us senior leaders, we knew that, yeah, they went on a streak of scores and stopped us,” Neibauer said. “But we had to calm everyone down and play our game the way we normally play.”

Kitchin finished with 13 rebounds, three blocks and three assists to go with 17 points. Redmond’s Jenna Hall had 10 points, and Ellie Corwin added seven points, seven boards and three assists.

“It continues to be that matter of putting four quarters together and finishing strong,” said Capps, whose team was 1-for-9 shooting in the second quarter but came back with an 8-of-12 clip in the third. “We’re getting there. I told them (after the game) that we were down by (13 points) at halftime. Two years ago, we would have rolled over and died. As frustrating as it is to lose so many close games this season, it’s a step in the right direction from where we’ve been. That’s a real positive for our program, moving in the right direction.”

Neibauer also dished out four assists for Summit. Bledsoe totaled 14 points and two blocks, and Spencer Hurley chipped in with 12 points.

“I feel like (the postseason) definitely did start with this,” Neibauer said. “Coming in with the mentality that we’ve beaten them before and we can beat them again … we knew it leads to postseason, so we went in with all we had. And we got it.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0307, glucas@bendbulletin.com

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