PORTLAND – The talented Class of 2025 arrived at Clackamas last season with great fanfare, talking openly of winning multiple girls basketball state titles.
It took a year of growth and learning, but the sophomore-dominated Cavaliers delivered on their vast promise Saturday by winning the program's first state championship.
No. 5 seed Clackamas took the lead late in the first half and kept No. 2 South Medford at arm's length the rest of the way for a 56-46 win in the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 6A final at the Chiles Center.
The Cavaliers overcame foul trouble to star sophomore Jazzy Davidson, who was limited to 19 minutes, and showed their depth, versatility and cohesiveness.
“It's just so amazing,” Davidson said. “It's everything we wanted to do this season. I'm so happy that we got to do it as a team. Everybody did their job and we came out on top.”
University of Portland-bound senior point guard Rhyan Mogel had 18 points and five rebounds and Davidson added 12 points, three rebounds, two blocks and two steals for Clackamas (26-4). The Cavaliers, who did not lose to an Oregon team this season, reached the pinnacle after falling in the semifinals last year.
“Last year obviously we wanted it really bad, but this year I think we wanted it more,” said sophomore guard Avery Peterson, who scored nine points. “We were just all-around more focused before and during the game. Obviously, freshman year we weren't that mature. I think sophomore year, we matured a lot, and that really showed.”
Senior center Eliza Buerk marveled at how the team came together this season.
“This team, I don't think it's going to be recreated how special this season was,” Buerk said. “Especially the growth that we saw from last year to this year, it's something that's super unique, and it really just shows how bought in everybody was. From the freshmen to the seniors, everybody knew that this is what we wanted at the end of the season.”
Clackamas coach Korey Landolt (Beeler), who played for the Cavaliers, credited the team's success to the mental work the players put in during the offseason.
“I think it really made a difference for us,” Landolt said. “And they're a year older. Every moment is like money in the bank that they get to cash out on in big moments like this, so it's pretty fun.
“They just stayed together and really dug their heels in. We weren't going to settle for anything less.”
South Medford (27-3), going for its first title since 2012, was riding a wave of momentum after an impressive 71-33 thrashing of No. 6 Barlow in the semifinals. The Panthers, led by Oregon State-bound senior guard Donovyn Hunter, also remembered losing to Clackamas 59-54 in last year's third-place game.
After spotting Clackamas a 13-6 lead, South Medford countered to pull ahead 19-18 on a drive by Hunter with 3:17 left in the second quarter. But Mogel hit 5 of 6 free throws for a 23-19 lead at half, and the Cavaliers scored the first eight points of the second half to extend their edge to 31-19.
Davidson, who missed the last 5:16 of the second quarter after picking up her third foul, had to sit again after being tagged with her fourth foul with 4:28 left in the third quarter and Clackamas leading 33-21.
The Cavaliers kept it together without their best player, though. By the time Davidson returned with 5:05 left in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers still had a 46-38 lead.
“Honestly, when I was out, I wasn't worried at all,” Davidson said. “I know my teammates. I know what they can do. They do just fine without me. I was just cheering them on from the sidelines.”
The 6-foot-1 Davidson started the game guarding the explosive Hunter. In her absence, that chore fell to the 5-9 Mogel, the Mt. Hood Conference defensive player of the year. Hunter scored a team-high 15 points, but shot 6 of 20 from the field as Mogel worked to cut off her driving lanes.
“Donovyn is so disciplined, really smart, so it's like all my focus has to be on her, so it's up to my team to get me through actions,” Mogel said. “We forced tough shots and got the rebound, and that was what really helped us get it done.”
Buerk said Mogel helped rally the team when Davidson sat.
“I think Rhyan said, like, 'It's OK, stay composed, we've got this,'” Buerk said. “To show that we could hang with a really good South Medford team without Jazzy, it just kind of proves what we've been saying all along, which is we're a really good team, even without her.”
Clackamas sophomore Allie Roden made a three-pointer for a 43-32 lead to start the fourth quarter, but South Medford battled back, getting to within 48-44 and 50-46 on driving baskets by Hunter, the latter with 1:59 left.
Cavaliers sophomore Sara Barhoum dropped two free throws to make it 52-46, and after a miss by Hunter, Mogel hit two free throws for a 54-46 lead with 37 seconds remaining.
Mogel, who played on the team with sophomore sisters Dylan and Reyce, said the season was “really special.”
“This is the first time we've all gotten to play together through injuries that each of us had,” she said. “So to be able to do something so special for our community, and together, is just really cool.”
The 6-3 Buerk, who transferred with Rhyan Mogel from 5A La Salle Prep as sophomores, believes the Cavaliers are just getting started.
“Rhyan and I, we brought a lot of leadership, but I think that they're not going to necessarily need our specific leadership next year,” Buerk said. “They've grown so much. They'll be just fine.”
Buerk, who will play in college at Davidson, considered it a privilege to play alongside Davidson.
“Jazzy has the potential to be one of the best players to ever do it, especially out of Oregon,” Buerk said. “Jazzy, her athleticism, combined with her skill set, and combined with her drive and ambition, is scary.
“To be able to play with her, and witness and be a part of her journey, it's really something special. Her ambition pushed me to be better.”
The game marked the end of a sterling career for Hunter. As a sophomore, she led South Medford to an unofficial state title in the COVID-shortened season. She was hoping for a bigger send-off Saturday, but the Cavaliers were too much for the Panthers.
“They're a good team. They have good players and a good system,” Hunter said. “They play together all the time. It comes to the effort levels, the boards, they overpowered us in the end. That's totally fine. That happens.”
Hunter reflected on finishing her high school career.
“I firmly believe that God has a plan,” she said. “So my last game being in the state championship, whether it's a win or a loss, is a blessing. It's been a great journey, and now on to my next one.”