A year ago, the Lebanon girls basketball team fell one game short of making it to the state tournament.
The Warriors were determined to not go through that same experience this year and they didn’t. Lebanon dominated from the opening tip on Saturday afternoon in a 72-25 victory over visiting Ridgeview in the first round of the 5A state playoffs.
The Warriors will play Thursday at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis in the quarterfinals of the state tournament. Lebanon will play in the last game of the opening day, tipping off at 8:15 p.m. against Crater. The Comets advanced with a 41-26 victory over Central on Saturday night.
"The girls didn’t feel good about last year," said Lebanon coach Mardy Benedict. "This team works hard, they commit to what they’re going to do. It’s a super-fun group to coach."
Senior Paige Wombacher said earning a trip to the state tournament is the culmination of a long journey for the team.
“This isn’t just something that one of us wants. It’s something we’ve all had as a dream since we played together in middle school,” Wombacher said. “We all have a common goal and that’s to be our best together. So, it feels really great to be here right now.”
Wombacher came off the bench to score a game-high 16 points. She hit two first-half 3-poiners which helped the Warriors built an insurmountable early lead. Lebanon led 19-9 after the first quarter and 37-13 at halftime.
Senior Megan Miller added 14 points with two assists and two steals. Senior Maddy Romeo hit three 3-pointers on her way to 11 points. Junior post Ellie Croco tallied 11 points and eight rebounds.
As a team, the Warriors made 9 of 22 3-point attempts.
Benedict emptied his bench in the second half as 11 Warriors saw playing time.
After the win over Ridgeview, Croco remembered last year’s loss at Bend in the first round of the state playoffs.
“We didn’t even get to go to Gill last year. Now we get to, which hasn’t happened in a long time and we’re really excited about it,” Croco said.
The Warriors dominated the Ravens defensively on Saturday, allowing nine points or fewer in each quarter. Croco said the team has been focused on defense during practice.
“In our practices we’ve been communicating really well, and I thought that transferred over well in the game,” Croco said. “We just worked on moving our feet in practice and that helped us in the game.”
Benedict said the team followed through with what they had practiced.
"We had a week to prepare for them and our girls just played an outstanding game. We defended, shot the ball well, played with confidence. Took care of the basketball," Benedict said.
As well as the team played on offense, it was the defensive intensity which turned the contest into a rout.
"We have that capability when the girls are trusting each and playing well. To hold them to seven points in the second and third combined was pretty special," Benedict said.
Lebanon (21-3) won the Mid-Willamette Conference championship and is on a 15-game winning streak entering the state playoffs. Ridgeview ends the year with a record of 10-13 and reached the postseason by placing third in the Intermountain Conference.
Looking ahead to Crater, Benedict said the two squads have not played in recent years but he has had the opportunity to look at some of the Comets' game film.
"They’ve got a couple bigs. They play hard. They’ve got a 6-2 girl, physical forward, Benedict said of junior Averi Young. "Guards shoot decent. They’re going to be a tough foe, they’re in a tough conference."
Lebanon 72, Ridgeview 25
Ridgeview 9 4 3 9 - 25
Lebanon 19 18 19 16 - 72
Ridgeview: Hall 7, Clark 5, Pentzer 4, Albrecht 2, Troutman 2, Martin 2, Hartford 2, Davis 1, Sargent, Love.
Lebanon: Wombacher 16, Miller 14, Croco 11, Romeo 11, Hopkins 8, Ho. Johnson 5, Ha. Johnson 4, Workman 3, Steiner, Guzon, Edwards.
3-pointers: Ridgeview 1 (Clark); Lebanon 9 (Romeo 3, Workman, Ho. Johnson, Miller 2, Wombacher 2)
Crater is 21-4 and placed second in the Midwestern League with a 13-2 mark.