A tough ending to a season full of positives

Skyhawks fall just short in the 6A state championship game,

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A tough ending to a season full of positives

Kyle Pinnell

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The Skyhawks have accomplished a lot this season. They won the Metro League for the third year in a row. In December they took down the top-ranked team in the country. They took home first place in the Nike Interstate Shootout tournament. But when the clock struck double zeroes at the Chiles Center on Saturday night, they found themselves short of their ultimate goal: a third-consecutive state championship.

The Benson Techsters played the best an in-state opponent has against the reigning state champions, and after a quick start to the game never looked back as the Techsters defeated the Skyhawks 66-42 in the 6A state championship game.

Junior Cameron Brink led the Skyhawks with 23 points and 16 boards.

“It was a great season,” Southridge coach Michael Bergmann said. “They accomplished a lot as a team, and they grew in so many areas.”

“One game doesn’t define a whole season, but I think one thing we should take away is we should be hungry to get better, keep improving. It’s a great group of girls with so much talent, and they just had one of those games tonight.”

After losing to the Skyhawks in two consecutive championship games over the past year,  Benson was ready for revenge.

The Techsters came out on fire to start the game. Guard Cierra Ellington had the first six for Benson who took control early en route to a ten point lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Skyhawks fought back in the second quarter, using a 14-4 run to climb to within two, but Benson responded emphatically. The Techsters used an 8-0 run to regain control and take a 33-20 lead into halftime.

The Techsters goal defensively was to cut Brink and junior McKelle Meek off and force the rest of the team to score. On offense they wanted their guard, Cierra Ellington to get into the paint and force Brink to come to guard her. It worked, and the Techsters were able to get lay-ins and offensive rebounds because of it. Teams want to make sure to execute their gameplan in such a big game. Benson was simply flawless.

“They found our weak spot in the middle, and I think we should’ve adjusted a little faster and gone man or we have different things we could have thrown at them, but we kinda just laid down and deferred to them a little bit,” Brink said.

And in a game like this where they needed their defense to be at their strongest, the Skyhawks were missing an important piece: sophomore guard Maya Hoff who had just come off of surgery on a broken jaw that she suffered in Friday night’s win over Beaverton. Many players believed that she could have made a big difference in the championship game.

“For a game like this, she’s really important because she brings ball handling and defense,” Bergmann said. “She’s our best defender, and she’s the one who takes that 15-footer away better than anyone. Cece was shooting it really confident and quickly so I’m not sure it would have mattered, but I think she’s the best defender in the state.”

And while players were a little shell-shocked by the news that Hoff needed surgery that day, they were glad that she got to be there to take in the championship game with them.

“We didn’t think she would need surgery, so it was kinda emotional to see her go through that because she’s just the best kid you want to see,” Brink said. “So that’s really emotional seeing her be in so much pain. We really missed her on offense and defense.”

It may have been a disappointing ending for the Hawks, who’s loss only marks the third to an in-state opponent over the last two years, but that shouldn’t taint what was an exciting season. It took nearly a flawless game from the Techsters to gain the momentum early and pull away.

Nobody can take away the fact that the Skyhawks have won the past three Metro League titles nor can anybody say that they have finished less than second over the past three seasons. And the difference from a year ago? Now the Skyhawks have a brand new motivator.

“I think we can walk away from it saying it’s unfinished business,” Bergmann said. “What we could’ve done we couldn’t do so that gives us more motivation to work hard next year.”

Added Brink: “I think next year is just redemption year and we have everyone returning so I think we’re going to work twice as hard as we did this year and have a lot more fun.”