Corbett players celebrate around Carly Hardie after her late free throw lifted the Cardinals over Vale. (Photo by John Gunther)
Corbett players celebrate around Carly Hardie after her late free throw lifted the Cardinals over Vale. (Photo by John Gunther)


COOS BAY — Corbett senior Carly Hardie has only been playing basketball for two years, recruited to the team by classmates and soccer teammates Ella Holwege and Ally Schimel.

Friday night, Hardie came up huge for the unbeaten and top-ranked Cardinals, hitting a free throw with 1.7 seconds remaining to lift Corbett to a 50-49 win over Vale in the semifinals at the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 3A tournament at Marshfield High School.

Corbett faces Amity for the title Saturday at 8:45 p.m. after the Warriors rallied to beat Sutherlin 46-44.

“That soccer player has turned into a basketball player,” Corbett coach Bill Schimel said after the Cardinals escaped a big comeback by the Vikings, who trailed by double digits for much of the middle two quarters but rallied back when Corbett’s shooting slumped.

Until the final free throw, Corbett hadn’t scored in 5 ½ minutes as Vale chipped away at the lead. With a minute to go, it was the Vikings celebrating after Kesley Stepleton scored inside to tie the game.

Vale had two shots to take the lead, but both misfired and Corbett ran a final play. Lilly Schimel, the younger of the team’s high-scoring sibling duo, came up short from the top of the key and the ball caromed right to Hardie, who was fouled putting up a follow-up shot.

“I thought it was going in,” Hardie said of Lilly’s shot. “Then I thought, I’m going to get this rebound.”

Entering the night, Hardie had made just three free throws all season (she also made one of two in the first quarter).

“We call her the rock,” Bill Schimel said, explaining that emotionally and physically, she is just that for the Cardinals.

Corbett kept alive the dream of a state title that was denied them in the championship game each of the past two years.

“I want to win it for them,” Hardie said of the Schimel sisters and Holwege. “I see how hard they have worked for this their entire life.”

Through the first half, it was the sisters who helped Corbett build a lead, each hitting three 3-pointers and combining for 30 of the team’s 35 points. Ally, who had 19 points in the first half, hit a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to give her squad a 35-22 lead.

By the end of the night, Ally had 21 points, Lilly 15 and Holwege 10. But the Cardinals scored just three points in the final quarter as Vale rallied.

“We had our chances,” Vale coach Randy Seals said. “They are sad, but we just told them you have a lot to be proud of in a game like this.”

Vale now has three losses this season, all by one point.

Seals was happy with his team’s defense even in the first half.

“I thought we did an OK job,” he said. “They just kept hitting shots.”

So he told the team to stick to the game plan, hoping the pressure would wear Corbett out.

“Hopefully they lose their legs and our shots start going down,” he said.

Ultimately, that happened, but it wasn’t quite enough.

Hailey Cleaver led the Vikings with 12 points and Stepleton and Halle Peterson had nine each. Eight different players scored for Vale.  

“They are a very resilient group,” Seals said. “We have different girls that step up every night.”

He expects that to be the case in the third-place game, too.

“We’ve got one more game,” he said.

Corbett, meanwhile, has another shot at a championship, even though they weren’t at their offensive best.

“That shows the grit of this team,” Bill Schimel said. “It’s special when you can win without scoring (much).”

On Friday, one point in the final five minutes was enough, and it came from an unlikely source.

“You’ve got to play to the last buzzer,” Hardie said.

The Sutherlin-Amity game also came down to the final second, after Amity rallied from a 10-point deficit.

The Warriors led by five after two free throws by Adie Nisly, but missed four more that could have clinched the win.

Instead, Sutherlin pulled within three and then had a last-gasp effort when Addyson Clark was fouled on a half-court heave just before the buzzer.

Clark made the first free throw, but missed the second and was called for a lane violation hurrying to try to rebound the third and Amity held on.

The first half was a defensive struggle with Sutherlin leading just 18-12 at the break and the Bulldogs led by 10 in the third quarter, but Amity battled back with its pressure defense and some success on offense.

“We spread them out in the second half,” Amity coach Jed McMullen said, adding his goal was to make Sutherlin choose whether to defend inside or outside. “We finally made some shots.”

Alyssa McMullen hit a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter and Nisly and her twin sister, Eliza, each scored twice inside.

Then in the fourth quarter, Amity forced a few turnovers that quickly became baskets.

“It’s our press that really brings us back,” Adie Nisly said. “We’ve come back from a lot of deficits like that.”

Amity beat Sutherlin for the second time this year and also handed the Bulldogs two of their three losses last year — the other coming to Corbett in the semifinals.

“They’re a classy group,” Sutherlin coach Josh Grotting said. “They work hard. They did a way better job in the fourth quarter than we did.”

He pointed to a stretch with the turnovers where Sutherlin went from up 35-30 at the start of the fourth to down 38-35 just two minutes in.

“We had a horrible two-minute stretch and it cost us the game,” Grotting said.

In addition to the turnovers, he said the Bulldogs “relied on the 3-point shot, which we haven’t done all year.”

Amity also held its own on the boards, even though Sutherlin is much bigger, with a pair of 6-footers inside.

“Our kids did well,” Jed McMullen said. “We’re small, but we’re mighty.”

Adie Nisly led Amity with 15 points, while Eliza Nisly had nine and Alyssa McMullen and Saralynn Grove had eight each.

Clark had 24 points for Sutherlin, which lost in the semifinals for the third year in a row. Madison Huntley added 10 and Josie Vermillion eight.

Amity moves on to battle Corbett, trying to win the school’s first state title in girls basketball (the boys won way back in 1938).

“I’m happy for the kids and our school,” Jed McMullen said. “I’d like to seal the deal for our community.

“Corbett’s the real deal. They shoot the lights out. Hopefully, we can slow them down.”

It’s an opportunity the team relishes.

“I’m really excited,” Adie Nisly said. “Hopefully we can bring the same energy tomorrow.”

Sutherlin, meanwhile, will again try to pick itself up emotionally for a third-place game.

“Vale got a gut punch tonight, too,” Grotting said. “It will be a game between two teams that easily could have been playing (in the championship).

“We’re a resilient team.”