B South girls basketball: Spruce Mountain dethrones Oceanside for first regional title
Feb. 24—PORTLAND — Spruce Mountain's whirlwind tour in the Class B girls basketball tournament continues thanks to Aubrey Kachnovich's dazzling display of long-distance shooting that triggered a fourth-quarter eruption.
The Phoenix scored nearly half of their points in the fourth quarter as they toppled top-seeded Oceanside with a 56-47 victory to collect the Class B South regional championship at the Portland Expo on a wild Friday afternoon.
This was the first time the second-ranked Spruce Mountain girls basketball team won a regional title. The Phoenix (20-1) also put an end to the defending state champion Mariners' (20-1) 53-game winning streak.
Spruce Mountain's next stop is the state championship, where it willl play the winner of No. 3 Ellsworth (17-3) and No. 1 Old Town (20-1) — who play for the Class B North title Saturday — at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland next Saturday at 1 p.m.
Kachnovich scored 21 of her 22 points in the second half and went 3 for 4 at the free-throw line. Jadyn Pingree dropped in19 points and she made good on 10 of her 16 foul shot attempts.
"I mean, I just kept going," Kachnovich said. "I was on and I should just keep shooting. My teammates knew the same thing. They kept passing me the ball because they knew I was on fire."
Kachnovich was also impressed with her team's timing and the Phoenix's rebellion that ensued in the fourth quarter, when they put up 25 points.
"What better time to make those plays," she said. "The first half, that would have been great, too, but after being down in the second half, it was really good for us to just go on a really big run then shut them down because they couldn't come back after that.
"It is the first time we've ever been to regionals, and now we are going to states and it's amazing. We've worked our whole lives to get here since fourth grade. We've always talked about it."
Spruce Mountain coach Zach Keene could see a level of frustration as well as determination brewing from his team.
"It is almost like (Kachnovich) got to the point of enough is enough," Keene said. "But the pace she started to play with, the confidence she started playing with, it showed in what she did. It was a great time to do it. We've seen her do it before, but not on the state like this.
"I am not really surprised at things we do. It always feels like it is a matter of time because we have so many players who can shoot it, dribble it, skilled, but (the rally) came a little later than we would have hoped today ... and you can see that early in the third quarter. But it is certainly a great feeling as a coach when your players start cutting it loose ... it is pretty amazing."
The Phoenix were exasperated after the second half, including Kachnovich, who took control at the perimeter and and began dropping 3-pointers like a downpour from a fast-moving squall at sea.
Jaydn Pingree, received the Mike DiRenzo Award as the most outstanding player of the Class B South girls tournament, is grateful that Kachnovich stepped up from the perimeter.
"I knew we were going to win, honestly," Pingree said. "We knew that coming out (in the second half) we just had to push it on offense and our shots (would fall), and they did and it was in our favor."
Pingree said winning the regional title and now getting a crack at the state title is wonderful.
"It is pretty amazing for our community and all of us," she said. "Our team is pretty special, for sure."
But Pingree pointed out that Oceanside is a fine team, too.
"(The Mariners) are a very good team," she said. "But we have five very good players that just outworked them."
For the Mariners, Bailey Breen scored 17 points and went 6 for 10 at the foul line and teammate Audrey Mackie had 10.
The Phoenix's rebellion actually began in the third quarter when they took a 31-28 lead going into the final stanza, and then came Kachnovich's pinpoint shooting from the perimeter in the decisive fourth quarter. She nailed down one of her five 3-pointers and stole the ball for two points to begin the fourth quarter and hand the Phoenix a 36-31 lead.
Then Spruce Mountain's defense began pecking away at the Mariners, holding them to 19 points.
"Well, that was a tough one," Oceanside coach Matt Breen said. "Spruce played well. They executed. We had a couple of breakdowns defensively and (Spruce) made us pay every single time. They did a good job on switching all screens, and they're physical. Sometimes, we don't adapt to the physicality well.
"They did a good job of keeping us on our heels. That's what they do. They are physical ... make it a slow-down game and they grind you out."
Keene pointed out that the Phoenix never really forgot losing to Oceanside in the regional semifinals last season.
" ... There's been a lot of talk that it was an opportunity they missed," he said. "They thought they didn't play very well. They wanted a shot at them. They thought they could beat them.
"So I don't want to say it went into to their minds that they could beat them a year ago, but it is their mindset. They are not going to back down from anybody. They knew how good Oceanside was, but they wanted a shot at them because they thought they could beat them..."