GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WLNS) – The Portland girls basketball team had one goal in mind on Wednesday – beat Parma Western in the Division 2 state semifinals.
The mission was a successful one for Portland coach Jason Haid and company. The Raiders took down Western, 45-38, to advance to their first-ever state championship game.
“I don’t think it’s going to set in until we pull up to Breslin on Friday night,” Haid said. “I’m just so happy for them. Just because they’ve sacrificed so much over this past year and I don’t believe anyone deserves it more than these kids.”
“There’s been a lot of obstacles with COVID, and its been hard both mentality and physically, but its paid off and now we’re playing for a championship,” junior guard Ashley Bower said.
Portland’s Ava Guilford set the tone early by knocking a near buzzer-beating 3-pointer, at the end of the first quarter, giving the Raiders a 10-9 lead. From there, Bower stole the show in the first half. The junior guard scored 13 of her game-high 17 points in the first half. Helping Portland take a 25-21 lead into halftime.
Lilli Luma had a team-high 15 points for Western and was apart of a third quarter at saw the Panthers tie the game, at 32. In the third quarter, Western shot its highest shooting percentage (45.5%), the same quarter that saw Portland shoot its lowest shooting percentage (27.3%) of the game.
So with the momentum on the side of the Panthers, how would the Raiders respond? Simply by going on a 5-0 run – but Western responded with a 6-0 run to take a 38-37 lead with 4:29 to play.
Then with under two minutes to play, still down one, Portland found Guilford open in the corner for her fourth 3-pointer of the game to give the Raiders the lead for good.
Guilford finished with 12 points, and Portland would close out the game with free throws to secure the win.
“If teams want to take Ashley away, we’re not going to force anything to her because we have other kids that can score,” Haid said. “Ava Guilford stepped up big-time for us tonight, Alivia Densmore stepped up big-time for us tonight, Breckyn Werner had some nice drives, and Ava Gruber did her thing and just distributed the ball and got us where we needed to be.”
“I think we have good team chemistry. We all work well together, help each other out and we just play for each other,” Bower said.
Portland will take on Newaygo on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Breslin Center. Newaygo enters the state title game with a 21-1 record – that only loss came at the hands of Portland on Feb. 24, 38-33.
In order for history to repeat itself, Haid said his team will have to focus on the little things, and do what’s gotten them one win away from a state championship.
“We got to defend, like we always do. We have to get stops. They have some great guard play, they got multiple kids that can hit shots,” he said. “If we take it one possession at a time, win the loose ball battle and clear the boards, we’ll be in good shape.