Nyssa senior Hailey Castro shoots a layup in Nyssa’s second round loss to eventual state champion Clatskanie. (Photo courtesy of Anna Long)

NYSSA - The Nyssa girls basketball team took third place in the 3A state championships after defeating Santiam Christian 62-60 on Friday.

The Bulldogs were led by sophomore Gracie Johnson’s near triple-double performance that included 31 points, 16 rebounds and nine blocks.

“It was a game that could have gone either way but we hit shots when it mattered most,” said Nyssa Coach Jeremy Chamberlain. 

Chamberlain said neither team led by more than six points and Santiam Christian tied the score at 60 with about 13 seconds left. Nyssa junior Laney Hartley knocked down a pair of free throws with eight seconds left to take the lead and give the Bulldogs the win. 

This year’s culminating tournaments for basketball were revised from the usual 16 teams to an “Elite 8” that included six league champions and two at-large bids. 

Nyssa was selected as an at-large bid for the 3A tournament after a 7-4 finish in the regular season. The Bulldogs defeated Brookings-Harbor in the first round of the tournament thanks to an epic three-point buzzer-beater from senior Hailey Castro.

The Bulldogs lost their final four matchup to Clakstanie, the eventual state champion. 

“I think our third-place finish is right where we should have been. The two teams ahead of us deserved to be where they were,” said Chamberlain. “But we also knew we were one of the top teams in the state.”

Johnson and Castro were named second team all-tournament for their performances in the three games. 

Chamberlain said that going into the season, he just hoped basketball would bring some stability in a year that was difficult for a lot of his players. Winning and losing, Chamberlain said, was secondary. 

But as the season went on, the Bulldogs’ goals and expectations began to change.

“Near the end of the season, we started getting calls from athletic directors and coaches saying, ‘Make sure you opt-in for the end-of-season tournament because we think you’re one of the better teams in the state,’” said Chamberlain. 

The Bulldogs will only lose two players to graduation. 

News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected] or 616-610-3093.

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