The Joseph girls celebrated the opening round of the state playoffs after administering a solid 61-24 hiding to the Ione Cardinals during a Feb. 20 contest in Joseph.

The outcome was in little doubt from the start as even the pre-game warm-ups indicated a clear Eagles superiority. Although Ione drew first blood, it was about the last shining moment from the Cardinals.

The Eagles brought their impressive skills to bear on the hapless Cardinals as they scored 30 points in the first quarter alone behind supreme shooting, ball handling skills and defense.

The their credit, the Cardinals never gave up even after their situation was hopeless. The Eagles cruised through the rest of the game in neutral, scoring the same amount of points in the following three quarters as they did in the first. Ione only scored three points in the second half.

“We came out with a lot of energy, and our press was very effective.,” Coach Lance Homan said. “I was proud of how well all of the girls worked together. They were very focused and ready to put a good show on for all the people that were able to attend the game.”

Sabrina Albee, the best pure shooter at Joseph with the possible exception of Mason Ferre from the boys’ squad, scored an astonishing 28 points points while Madelyn Nelson cut through the Cardinal defense like it was spaghetti with her 15-point performance.

The girls next traveled to Mohawk/Marcola to take on the Mustangs, whom the Eagles quickly broke to ride in a convincing 50-34 win. Homan said that the team built up a 21-point lead in the first half until point guard Emma Hite left the floor due to a nose injury. The Mustangs cut the lead to 17 before the half and came out ready to play in the third quarter.

Albee got hit with her third foul in the third quarter and spent some time on the sidelines. Homan said the girls stepped up in response. Haley Miller went 11-12 from the free throw line while Ella Coughlan went 4-4 from the same place at some crucial moments. Haley Miller pulled in 15 points while Madelyn Nelson stepped up with 14 points and Albee pitched in with 12 points.

“This was a great win for our program and one that our girls wanted very badly,” Homan said. “I was super proud of the effort and how they handled adversity in this game. What a fun group of girls.”

The Eagles next play top-ranked St. Paul in the quarterfinals on Thursday, Feb. 28 at Baker High School at 1:30 p.m.

The Eagle boys season came to a disappointing end after a cliffhanger loss to Dufur on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 38-31. The boys fought tough against a larger and more physical squad.

The Rangers came out strong and scored twice before the Eagles put one in the bucket, albeit a three-pointer. The game stood at 11-10 when the Rangers put in two quick three-pointers as the clock wound down.

The Eagles couldn’t find the basket in the second quarter, although the Rangers themselves only managed five.They went into the locker room down 22-10. Down but not out.

The boys’ masterful defense kept the Eagles in the game, even when a bucket was hard to find.

“We had a good halftime talk,” Coach Olan Fulfer said. “Some kids could have easily folded in a game like that, when it looks that hopeless. there was not an ounce of quit in that locker room.”

The boys came out of the break with a full-court press that further stymied the Rangers. Chase Murray and Mason Ferre each gunned in three-pointers, cutting the score to 22-16. It didn’t stop there.

The boys pulled to within two toward the end of the third when a Rangers bucket put them up 25-21.

The fourth quarter was virtually a battle of wills with the Eagles playing on heart alone as missed free throws and lay-ins cost them the two points that would have tied the game and given them the go-ahead momentum.

As it was, the Eagles were only two points down, 31-33, with about 1:40 left in the game. Untimely fouls and turnovers gave the ball back to the Rangers, who did not squander the opportunities.

“If you don’t make layups and free throws, you’re not going to win against a good team,” Fulfer said. “We lost other games doing exactly the same thing.”Superstar in the making, Murray, led the scoring with 10 while Ferre, the most talented shooter on the team followed with eight. Ball handler supreme, Tyler Homan, popped in seven. No one else scored more than two points.

“I’m really proud of the fight my kids had,” Fulfer said. “They could have folded after missing those layins, free throws and the turnovers, but they battled the whole time and never gave up. They’re a lot of fun to coach.”

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