JOHN DAY - The Prairie City Panther girls basketball team made history last week.
They started out - and excelled - in the upper bracket of the District 8 1A tournament, taking fourth place.
"It's a great accomplishment for us. As far as I know, Prairie City hasn't been on the winner's side of the tournament bracket in 25 years. We went above and beyond our goal," said Coach Penny Black. Black and veteran high school coach Denis Fast have teamed up to lead the girls team the last four years.
"This was a really good season," said team member Katie Cary. "We worked really hard all year to come to this point. It's nice to make history on the winners' side of the bracket."
The girls played Burnt River for third place. Final score was Burnt River 63, Prairie City 41.
Burnt River Bulls girls, as third place victor, goes on to state.
In the first quarter, Prairie City was ahead 14, 13. But the Bulls charged in the second, putting in 23 points to the Panthers' 8.
The Panther girls had 10 points in the third quarter, and 9 points in the fourth, while Burnt River had 15 in the third, and 12 in the final.
For the Prairie City girls, Cary scored 14 points, and had 16 total rebounds. Salona Mecham scored 8 points, and had three rebounds. Caitlin Patten had 6 points and three rebounds; Reagan Emmel had 4 points and six rebounds; Skyler Fast had 2 points and three rebounds; and Salem Fast, 2 points and one rebound.
To start the tournament, the No. 4-ranked Panther girls played No. 5-ranked Spray and won 44-23.
"We came ready and focused," said Black.
Cary was player of the game, with 14 points, eight offensive rebounds and 12 defensive rebounds.
In the first quarter, the Panthers scored 10 points, then hauled in the second to score 34 points. Neither team put up a point in the third quarter. The Panthers had 12 more in the fourth.
Other points were scored in the game by Skylar Fast, Katie Hoberg and Emmel, each with 6; Patten had 4; and with two each were Justice Strong, Kieley Williams and Salem Fast. Two points were also pitched into the Panther girls' hoop by a Spray player at the beginning of the game.
Patten had 7 total rebounds; and Skylar Fast, Williams and Salem Fast had two apiece.
The Panthers' next court appearance was tougher, ending in a 10-point loss to No. 1 Adrian.
"With Adrian, the girls were focused, confident and ready to play their game. They didn't let standings affect them, they just got out and played," said Black.
Adrian is ranked sixth in the state, and was No. 1-ranked for the High Desert League, and went on to win the tournament.
The Panthers were behind only one point in the first quarter, then trailed by just 5 at the half. The Antelopes galloped in the third quarter, putting on 23 points to Prairie City's 15. The Panther girls outscored their opponents by 3 points in the final quarter.
An impressive 25 points was scored by Cary, who also contributed seven offensive and seven defensive rebounds.
Scoring 4 points apiece were Mecham and Patten; Skylar Fast, Hoberg and Emmel each scored 2; and Williams had 1.
Claiming rebounds were Williams, six; Patten, five; Skylar Fast and Emmel, three each; Salem Fast, two, and Hoberg, one.
The final score was 50-40.
"I'm really proud of the girls playing Adrian as tough as we could (as they're sixth in the state)," said Black.
"It's great to get to the winning end of things," said Coach Denis Fast of the history-making season. The girls, of course, wish they could have done even better, concluded Black, "There's been no quitting. They have huge hearts. They still didn't reach their full potential, but they're still proud of themselves."
Seniors Skyler Fast, Katie Hoberg and Caitlin Patten will be missed. But, the coaches look to continue building the basketball program at Prairie City. Part of that will include holding their summer camp and tournament, and attending camp at Pine Eagle. "We have a good batch of eighth graders coming up. We'll have a big team, a lot of talent," said Black.
She looks to the girls again being on the winners' side of the bracket - and state as a real possibility.
Black and Fast commended veteran coach, now-volunteer Dennis Lynch for helping out during the season, as well as the school's administration and the community.
The two coaches, and others in the district, also lauded tournament organizers Mark Woodbury and Alec Moore, and wished Crane, Adrian and Burnt River well as they head to state.