HILLSBORO — All season long Cascade High School’s girls basketball team had been the favorite to win the OSAA Class 4A state championship.
Sutherlin didn’t seem to care.
The Bulldogs shut down all of Cascade’s players offensively except Halle Wright and made every big play in the closing seconds to win 45-40 Saturday evening in the OSAA Class 4A state championship game at Liberty High School.
The state championship was the third consecutive for Sutherlin (27-1).
In a game that featured teams that hadn’t lost to an in-state opponent this season, Sutherlin set a physical tone early, something that normally plays into the hands of Cascade (26-2).
“I have no problem with it,” Cascade coach Mark Stevens said. “They’re physical, too. That’s part of the reason why we get here a little bit more than other teams, probably. (Sutherlin coach Josh Grotting) gets here a little more than other teams because his kids are tough.
“It’s mentality and it’s something you create in practices and summer league. It’s the subtleties. His kids are tough, our kids are tough. They let it go. They were better than us tonight.”
Cascade strung together runs of 5-0 and 6-0 in the first half and led 24-21 at halftime on a free throw by Wright.
But the Cougars were also 8 of 17 from the line in the first half.
“All year the free throws,” Stevens said. “It’s been a problem all year. Tonight the margin of error was smaller and that statistic looks bigger.”
In the second half Sutherlin nearly shut down every Cascade player, except Wright.
The 6-foot sophomore point guard scored 14 of her team’s 16 points in the second half and finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and three steals.
Similarly, Sutherlin’s Kayce Mock scored 25 points to lead the Bulldogs.
“Yeah, it has that appearance,” Stevens said. “It’s just a gnarly defensive game.”
Cascade trailed most of the second half, but rallied to tie the game at 40 with 1:57 left on a three-point play by Wright.
Sutherlin’s Harlee Baker made two free throws with 1:38 left to take the lead back, and Baker missed two free throws with 31 seconds left, and Cascade had several attempts to tie the game.
With 17 seconds left Cascade inbounded the ball under its own basket, but the ball was turned over with 10 seconds left.
Mock was intentionally fouled with two seconds left, made one free throw then made a lay-in at the buzzer.
This was the seventh time in school history Cascade’s program has been in the state championship game and the fifth time (losses in 1997, 1998, 2004 and a win in 2011) in Stevens’ 25 years as coach of the program.
“Probably the first one we’ve been favored in. Right next to Bud Grant and Marv Levy,” Stevens said of notable coaches who won a lot of championship games.
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6701 or Twitter.com/bpoehler