Both the Joseph Eagles basketball squads made it to the 1A state playoffs in Baker this year, and both returned with performances for which they can be proud.
The lady Eagles finished fourth while the boys made it to the final eight before falling in the quarterfinals both to Jordan Valley and Sherman.
Christian — Girls
In this first Final Eight battle, on Feb. 28, the ladies fought hard and finished tough, losing by only three to top-ranked and eventual state champions Country Christian.
Joseph led through much of the contest, thoroughly outscoring CC in the first half, 28-20 and leading 37-36 going into the final period before Country Christian poured on the coal, outscoring the ladies 19-15.
Twin phenoms senior Alexis Sykora and freshman Sabrina Albee led the charge with 17 and 15 points, respectively. Sykora also pulled down a team-leading nine rebounds. Following up in the effort were Emma Hite and Haley Miller with nine and seven points each.
Coach Lance Homan noted this was a replay of a December contest that saw the Eagles come out of the bottom end of a 45-35 score. He said the team was looking forward to the rematch, and Homan implemented a new defense that he thought would be effective. He noted the play of Sykora and the fact the team played well for 28 of the game’s 32 minutes.
“I was proud of how our girls came back being down 12 with five minutes to go,” he said. “We cut the lead to a one possession game, and we just couldn’t finish it off. It was a great match-up and one that I would have liked to play further into the tournament, but that was the hand we were dealt.”
Jordan Valley — Girls
March 1 proved good luck for the Eagles as the ladies thoroughly stuffed Jordan Valley down the tube, 52-34, in the first round of consolation. The Eagles led from the first quarter and never looked back.
Once again, twin engines Sykora and Albee proved bucket magnets, scoring 15 and 12 points, respectively. Monsters on the boards as well, Sykora snagged 15 rebounds, while Albee snatched nine. Madelyn Nelson also poured 12 through the hoop, and Haley Miller donated six points to the cause.
Homan said the Eagles’ defense was key, allowing the team to get comfortable and play their own game. He noted the defensive play of Madelyn Nelson as well as the offensive play of Sykora, Albee, Nelson and Haley Miller.
“I was extremely proud of how our girls came out after a disappointing loss the day before and playing at 9 a.m.,” Homan said. “Our girls aren’t necessarily very big, but they are as tough as they come.”
Christian — Girls
On March 3, Hosanna Christian was probably praying for the game to end, as they suffered a 65-42 drubbing at the hands of Joseph, securing fourth place in the tournament for the Eagles.
In her final high school game, Sykora chalked up 27 points and 13 rebounds, that when combined with Albee’s 20, would have been enough to win the game alone. However, Hite and Miller added eight points each to spread some icing on the cake in the Eagles’ final game of the season.
Homan had nothing but praise for his team, Sykora in particular.
“She was a beast for us,” he said. The coach praised others as well.
“It was a total team effort and we were able to get all 12 girls a chance to play. Alaya Whelan-Moore was able to score which was awesome, as did Grace Hickman against Jordan Valley.”
With the season ended and the girls still buzzing about their performances, Homan summed it up this way:
“This was all and all a great experience for our kids,” he said. “They now know what it feels like to play in the state tournament and this will hopefully help us as we move into next year. Alexis will be missed, and I am super proud of all of her accomplishments while at Joseph.”
Jordan Valley — Boys
The boys, hampered by an injury to key player Tyler Homan, put in laudable efforts in consolation March 1 taking on Jordan Valley in a losing effort, 61-43, with turnovers, 18, helping Jordan Valley close the doors.
Bright spots included the Murray brothers wreaking havoc on the Jordan defense with Caevan Murray’s team-high 18 points while brother, Chase added 11 and freshman Mason Ferre dumped six in the hoop. Chase Murray and Homan led the team on the boards with six each.
“Both Caevan and Chase shot really well,” coach Olan Fulfer said. “We kind of missed with our turnovers, but when we played straight-up half-court offense versus half-court defense, we kept up really well.”
Sherman — Boys
The Eagles played their final game of the season against Sherman, coming up short 59-43 in the effort. Only junior Trey Wandschneider scored in double digits, with 11. Caevan Murray followed with nine, and a team-leading 10 rebounds, while Homan wrote seven points into the books.
“Trey Wandscheider had his best game of the season,” Fulfer said. “He didn’t back down from anyone. He kept his head on straight, and he was up for the challenge. I’m proud of how he played.”
Fulfer had no regrets.
“We lost to the number two and number six teams in the state,” he said. “We were playing extremely veteran-laden teams that have really made it far.”
He added that Sherman was coming off two consecutive state championships. An added 41 Eagle turnovers between the two contests also proved a stumbling block. This year’s squad, featured two freshman starters in Chase Murray and Mason Ferre.
The coach noted how far the team came in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year after losing three starting seniors. He said the team struggled early on, but the boys learned from their mistakes and made a bright future for themselves.
“There’s nothing my kids shouldn’t be proud of in both of those games — both my young guys and seniors,” he said. “Just getting a team to the spot where you’re playing the top teams in the state is pretty outstanding. It’s pretty special, what they were able to do.”
PHOTOS BY CHERYL COUGHLAN