By the CUJ
MISSION – A two-point loss to Elgin that had the Eagles Nest rocking Feb. 14 knocked the Nixyaawii Community School girls’ basketball team out of contention for the Old Oregon League district tournament.
The girls were coming off a three-game winning streak and needed a win in their last two games against one of the two teams in their side of the division that made the state playoffs. Elgin was eliminated in the first round, but Joseph made the big dance as one of the top eight at Baker City March 5-8.
But it wasn’t meant to be in spite of a late charge led by freshman Sophie Bronson in the fourth quarter. Bronson scored eight of her game-high 15 points, including two three-pointers, in the final frame.
It was another frustrating night for Coach Jeremy Maddern.
“It’s been the story of our whole season. We couldn’t quite make the plays to win. We were right there but couldn’t do quite enough to get on top,” he said.
The Golden Eagles had a final three-point shot that would have given them the win but the ball found only rim.
NCS trailed 24-18 at halftime and 43-33 at the end of three quarters.
Bronson was helped by another freshman, Kyella Picard, who scored five of her 9 points in the last stanza, and two others with three more, and outscored Elgin by eight, 18-10.
In the fourth, Elgin scored all 10 of its points at the free throw line. For the game, Elgin made 13 of 34 from the line. Nixyaawii went to the line 16 times and made half of their tries.
Mackenzie Kiona scored 9 points, Kylie Mountainchief had 6, Trista Melton 5, Lark Moses 4, and Adilia Hart 2 to round out the scoring for Nixyaawii.
Jayden Palmer and Mariah Williams each had a dozen to pace Elgin.
The Golden Eagles lost their final game to Joseph at Enterprise the following day, 54-40. Picard led the team with 9 points and Kiona had 8. Others who scored included Moses, Melton, Susie Patrick, Christina Kaltsukis, Ivory Hererra, Tyanna Van Pelt, and Chelsea Farrow.
The girls scored wins over Pine Eagle, 48-37, Feb. 7; over Helix, 44-24, Feb. 7; and over Imbler, 44-22, Feb. 13.
Against Pine Eagle, the squad was led by Picard with 17, Patrick with 9 and Bronson with 8.
Against Helix, Moses and Melton had 9 each and Picard had 8 to lead the team.
Against Imbler, Moses led the team with 14 and Kiona added 11.
The Golden Eagles will lose seven seniors – Melton, Mountainchief, Van Pelt and Patrick have been with the team for four years, and Moses has been there for three years. The other seniors are transfers Chelsea Farrow and Christina Kaltsukis.
But Coach Maddern has high hopes for the young players coming up, especially with a nucleus of Picard and Bronson, who will be sophomores next year.
The Nixyaawii junior varsity team lost only two games this year so Maddern is excited to see those girls, many of them who will be juniors, hit the hardwood next winter.
Through the year, Maddern said Picard and Bronson add consistency to their games, something they were missing as freshmen when the year began.
At the end of the season Picard was averaging a near double-double and Bronson, as a young point guard in a tough division, had dramatically reduced her turnover to assist ratio. In her last game against the best team in the conference she had six assists and just one turnover.
Said Maddern, “The next couple of years are going to be fun to watch for sure.”