Nyssa girls varsity basketball team clinches district title with late-game heroics

Nyssa’s Gracie Johnson (3) takes a shot during second-half action of a game against Burns Thursday night. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

NYSSA – Thursday night with a district championship crown on the line, Brooklyn Johns of Nyssa didn’t flinch.

Johns took an inbound pass from teammate Malerie Long under the basket with six second left, lifted her arms and dropped the ball into the hoop to give the Lady Bulldogs a 60-58 victory over Burns in the Eastern Oregon League championship game at Nyssa High School.

“I knew I needed to take a good shot or take it out. I wanted to take the shot,” said Johns, a senior.

Nyssa’s Gracie Johnson tries to push past Akylah Kaino (10) of Burns during their district championship basketball game Thursday night. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

Johns said she was nervous as Long aimed the ball at her on the inbound pass.

“I was afraid but I shot it anyway,” said Johns.

Long said she didn’t ponder the winning play.

“I thought, the coach told you the play so execute the play. Brooklyn made an amazing move,” said Long.

Johns’ last-second heroics capped a game that saw the Hilanders put together a furious second-half comeback bid and take a lead with under a minute to play.

Burns forward Kaitlyn Wright seemingly single-handedly willed the Hilanders back into the game in the second half, scoring 19 of her 25 points in the final two frames.

Kaitlyn Wright (13) of Burns takes as jump shot during first-half action against Nyssa Thursday night. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

“We didn’t give up the fight and we kind of knew we could hang with them,” said Burns coach Kris Sanders.

Nyssa coach Jeremy Chamberlain said he knew what Burns was capable of if the Hilanders began to drop long-range jump shots.

“No. 13 (Wright) caught fire. She’s a good shooter. We knew if she got hot it would be close down the stretch,” said Chamberlain.

Initially, it looked like the Bulldogs (9-1, 23-2) would walk away with an easy victory.

Nyssa built a 11-6 lead after the first quarter and was ahead 34-23 at halftime.

In the second half, the Hilanders began to chip away at the Nyssa lead. Burns slashed the Nyssa advantage to 41-36 at the end of the third frame and then Wright’s lay in with 7:15 to go in the fourth quarter cut the Bulldog advantage to 43-40.

A hearty crowd of Nyssa High School students cheered the girls varsity on as they faced Burns in a district championship game Thursday night. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

Burns’ Akylah Kaino’s put-back with 5:07 left tied the game, 47-47.

Burns’ Kaya Dobson knotted the contest 52-52 on her three-point jumper with 2:49 remaining and the Hilanders were out in front 56-54 with under two minutes to play.

Long put the home team ahead 58-57 on her jump shot but Wright’s free-throw with 19 seconds to go tied the game at 58-58 and set up Johns winning shot from under the basket.

“This is what a championship game should be. I am happy for the girls. They earned the win,” said Chamberlain.

Nyssa’s Lynzie Torres (20) battles inside the key against Burns Thursday night. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL).

Johns said the Bulldogs had no illusions about Burns’ potential for an upset.

“We knew going in this would be a tough one,” said Johns.

The Thursday game was the third time this season the Bulldogs and Burn squared off.

Burns defeated Nyssa early in the season but the Bulldogs evened up the series Feb. 11 with a 51-24 win.

Thursday night evolved into a contest of wills, said Long.

“They wanted that game and we wanted it. Nobody was going to give up,” said Long.

The Bulldogs also received big games from Gracie Johnson and Kate Vineyard. Vineyard scored 20 points to lead Nyssa while Johnson added 17.

“I think we held our composure tonight,” said Chamberlain.

Now the Lady Bulldogs will wait to see who they will face in a state tournament play-in game to be scheduled for next week.

 New tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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