Colts Girls Basketball: News

Monday, January 24
Prep girls basketball: Rival Colts end MillersÂ’ perfection

Prep girls basketball: Rival Colts end Millers’ perfection

Thurston isn’t quite flawless, but after a 32-30 win, neither is No. 1 Springfield anymore

Published: Saturday, Jan 22, 2011 05:01AM

SPRINGFIELD — It was a wide open three-pointer, but that’s because Kelli Rice was 25 feet from the hoop.

With Thurston leading unbeaten cross-town rival Springfield by two points and just more than three minutes left to play, Rice drained the long three-pointer that turned out to be the winning basket in the Colts’ 32-30 win Friday night in Midwestern League girls basketball at Thurston High School.

“I’d been shooting all night kind of on and off, probably a little less than 50 percent, but I was feeling confident and I was open, so I took it,” said Rice, who had four three-pointers on her way to 14 points.

Rice was directly in front of her coach, who gave her the green light for a shot that gave the Colts a 31-26 lead with 3:02 left in the game.

“That kid is a shooter,” Thurston coach Michelle Tuma-Larsen said. “Her shots had looked good, a couple were long, but she needed to keep shooting because one of them was going to fall and it fell at the right time. I had a good view, I could see it going in.”

Springfield answered with a basket by Mercedes Russell and then Russell made two free throws to get the Millers within 31-30 with 1:56 left in the game.

Thurston’s Lynette Lewis made one free throw with 27.3 seconds left to push the lead to 32-30 and Springfield set up for the last shot. The Millers got the ball to Stephanie Fleissner, but her three-pointer was off the mark and Thurston’s Elise Nelson grabbed the rebound and ran out the final seconds.

Springfield, ranked No. 1 in Class 5A, suffered its first loss to fall to 14-1 overall and 6-1 in the league.

“We got manhandled,” Springfield coach Bill Wagner said. “They physically outplayed us and played harder than us. They wanted it more than us, that is the bottom line.”

Both teams struggled to shoot in the first half. The Millers were 7-for-21 to take a 15-14 lead, and Thurston was 5-for-23.

Russell fought off double teams to have eight points along with eight rebounds and three blocks in the half, and Fleissner hit a three-pointer before halftime to put the Millers ahead.

The two teams traded the lead in the second half before Rice hit a three-pointer with 5:21 left in the fourth quarter to put the Colts ahead 28-26. Two minutes later, she drilled her fourth three-pointer of the night, which proved to be too much for Springfield to overcome.

Nelson finished with 10 points, and the Colts won despite shooting 11-for-43 from the field. Thurston improved to 6-2 in league.

“It’s just another step,” Rice said. “We want to come out with the same focus against every team.”

Russell, the 6-foot-5 sophomore post, finished with 16 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocked shots for the Millers, who were 13-for-38 from the field and 2-for-5 from the line.

“We left a lot of points on the floor,” Wagner said. “We missed a lot of lay-ins, we were 2-for-5 from the line and we just looked a bit slow tonight, but Thurston had a lot to do with that.”

The Millers are at the beginning of a tough two-week stretch of games beginning at South Eugene Tuesday.

“We need to be sure we come back and prepare because it doesn’t get any easier,” Wagner said. “It is the murderers’ row of our schedule, at South Eugene and North Eugene, home against Willamette, and at Churchill. We need to make sure we are a lot better Tuesday than we were tonight.”

Thursday, February 11
Colts on TV

Link to KVAL interview of Elise Nelson:


Link to KMTR Prep Athlete of the Week interview of Brittany Hendrickson:  

Wednesday, February 10
Colts claim first league crown

Colts claim first league crown

Appeared in print: WednesdayFeb 10, 2010

COOS BAY — Elise Nelson had 25 points and nine rebounds as Thurston clinched its first Midwestern League girls basketball title in school history with a 54-40 victory over Marshfield on Tuesday night.

The Colts improved to 9-0 and wrapped up the outright regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the league’s postseason tournament, which begins next week and will determine the Midwestern League’s three playoff teams.

Kelli Rice made four three-pointers en route to 16 points, while Lynette Lewis added eight points for the Colts.

Emily Beasley led the Pirates with 18 points.

Willamette 43, Springfield 41: Tori Mahaffie scored 10 points to lead the Wolverines at home. Mercedes Russell led Springfield with 14 points.

North Eugene 63, Churchill 30: Kelsie Knight scored 18 points and Tayler Ficek added 10 to lead the visiting Highlanders. Melyssa Weber led the Lancers with 13 points.

Wednesday, January 27
Colts silence skeptics

Colts silence skeptics

No. 2 Thurston is the last unbeaten in the Midwestern League

Appeared in print: Wednesday, Jan 27, 2010

Surely there were some skeptics when Thurston’s girls basketball team was ranked No. 1 in the Class 5A poll early this season.

The Colts were coming off back-to-back 6-9 seasons in the Midwestern League and have not had a winning record in league or made the playoffs since 2004. Yet halfway through league play, Thurston, the last remaining Midwestern unbeaten at 5-0, has lived up to its lofty billing.

“This is a new challenge being the ones on top, but I am excited to see how the girls handle it,” fourth-year coach Michelle Tuma said.

The high ranking came from the fact the Colts had an experienced team led by junior Elise Nelson, the only returnee in the league who earned first-team all-league honors last season.

“We felt real good about our team the last couple years too, but the league was so tough,” Tuma said. “So much goes into a successful season besides having a skilled team. Now we are in a year when a lot of teams are in a rebuilding phase and we are fortunate to not be doing that.”

The Colts started the season with five straight wins to move up to the top of the poll before losing to Mater Dei of Santa Ana, Calif., which was ranked No. 1 in the nation. They then lost to Beaverton at the Interstate Shootout in Lake Oswego. The Colts have bounced back to win seven in a row, including a sweep of the first round of league play.

Thurston has also dealt with injuries. Kayla Ping, an honorable-mention all-league selection last year, was lost before league play with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Haley Partridge also missed a game with a knee injury but could return this week. The Colts have had a couple of great escapes, rallying from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat North Eugene 42-38, and overcoming a 10-point deficit in the second half to beat defending league and state champion Willamette, 31-29.

“I was pleased to see how we handled adversity and overcoming injuries,” Tuma said. “They are just refuse-to-quit kids and competitors.”

Nelson is the leader who sparks the offense and is part of a strong junior class that also includes Lynette Lewis and Megan Buster, players who have filled the roles of Ping and Partridge lately, and all-around talents Kelli Rice and Brittany Hendrickson.

“We’ve continued to grow and improve as we’ve gone on and that is why we have been successful in the first half,” Tuma said. “We have to keep doing that in the second half, we can’t be content. A lot of teams in the league are young, so they will get better in the second half.”

That would describe Willamette, which has won the last three MWL titles but had its 36-game league winning streak snapped last week by the Colts. The Wolverines (4-1) are second with a roster that includes six freshmen.

“We’re playing a lot of freshmen, so we are up and down and all around, but I am not unhappy with them at all,” said Willamette co-coach Paul Brothers, whose team has lost to Thurston and Sky-Em league leading Cottage Grove. “If somebody said at the start of the year that we’d be 14-2 and the two losses would be by two points, I would have jumped all over that. We’re getting better and I’m hopeful that our younger kids are at the maturing point where they will finish strong.”

Willamette has senior Jessica Harper, junior Alaina Crane, and sophomores Tori Mahaffie and Shoniece Robertson back from last year’s roster.

North Eugene, which lost to Willamette in the state final last season, is third at 3-2 with returning starters Yvonne Couts, Kelsie Knight and Tayler Ficek.

“Like last year, our kids don’t play a lot of basketball in the offseason, so we are a work in progress, but as we go on I think we will get better,” North Eugene coach Bill Wagner said.

That is the motto for everyone this season as the league features a season-ending tournament to decide its three playoff teams for the first time. The league champion hosts the tournament, but no team is guaranteed a spot in the state playoffs.

“You want to be peaking in the second half and be sure you are playing good ball come tournament time,” Wagner said. “I like the direction we are going, but you can’t be satisfied.”

Springfield is in fourth place at 2-3, Marshfield is 1-4 and Churchill is 0-5, but all will have a shot at the playoffs in the end.

“The teams playing the best at the end of the season, those are the ones that fare well in the state tournament and, as coaches, that is what we are going for,” Tuma said. “You want whoever is playing the best at the end to represent the league and if you cannot get it going then, you probably don’t deserve it.”

The Midwestern League has had both state finalists in two of the past three season as Willamette beat Churchill in the 2007 final and the Wolverines beat North Eugene last year. Thurston is ranked No. 2 in the latest poll, with Willamette at No. 4 and North Eugene at No. 7.

“My overall opinion is that 5A is not as strong as it has been the last couple years,” Brothers said. “The top three teams from our league can play with just about anyone in the state.”

Monday, January 25
No. 2 Thurston beats third-ranked Willamette for watershed win

No. 2 Thurston beats third-ranked Willamette for watershed win

January 26, 2010

Thurston of Springfield, ranked second in Class 5A, got one of the biggest wins in school history Friday when it rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to beat No. 3 Willamette of Eugene 31-29.

The Colts (12-2, 5-0) not only took over first place in the Midwestern League, but they also struck a blow against the dominance of Willamette.

The Wolverines (14-2, 4-1) had won three Midwestern titles and two state championship since Class 5A was created in 2006-07. They also had won 36 consecutive league games and 33 in a row against Class 5A competition.

"We have a long history of having hard-fought battles with Willamette, and finally to get on top was meaningful for the girls, and for the girls who fought in the past, too," said Thurston coach Michelle Tuma, who was 0-9 against Willamette in her first three seasons as coach.

Thurston beat Willamette despite missing two starters because of knee injuries. Junior post Kayla Ping (5-foot-11) is out for the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in mid-January, and senior guard Haley Partridge (12.0 points per game) injured a medial collateral ligament last week and could be out for up to a month.

"We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game, but the bigger thing was, 'OK, now we've got some adversity, do we still believe we can compete with Willamette?' " Tuma said. "That was huge for us."

Willamette, rebuilding with four freshman starters, appeared in control when it led Thurston 21-11 midway through the third quarter. But the Colts came back behind junior guard Elise Nelson, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds.

The 5-8 Nelson, first-team all-league last season, leads the team in scoring with a 15.0 average.

"She never stops. She just keeps going on all ends of the court," Tuma said. "It makes her really difficult to guard."

It has been a turnaround season for Thurston, which was 15-30 in the Midwestern in the last three seasons. The Colts haven't made the state playoffs since 2004 and have never reached the state tournament.

Thurston is 9-0 against Class 5A teams. The Colts lost 69-24 to Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) and 64-40 to Beaverton.

Saturday, January 23
Colts seize momentum in MWL

Colts seize momentum in MWL

Thurston rallies in the second half to beat Willamette, ending the Wolverines’ 36-game league winning streak

Appeared in print: Saturday, Jan 23, 2010

Willamette’s winning streak came to an end Friday night and with it, the balance of power in the Midwestern League girls basketball dramatically shifted to a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2004.

The second-ranked Thurston Colts, sparked by the hustle and will of junior guard Elise Nelson, rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit on the road to beat third-ranked Willamette 31-29.

The league loss was the first for the Wolverines (14-2, 4-1 MWL) since falling to Marshfield on Feb. 15, 2007 — a winning streak of 36 games.

“It’s definitely the start of something new,” said Nelson, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Since the start of the six classification system in 2006-07, the Wolverines have won three straight league titles, two Class 5A state titles and had a 47-2 record in league games heading into Friday’s game, not including wins in the state title games against league opponents Churchill in 2007 and North Eugene in 2009.

The Colts (12-2, 5-0) were 19-30 in league play over that same time period, and now sit alone in first place at the halfway point of the league season.

“I think it’s more of a character thing … these kids don’t give up,” Thurston coach Michelle Tuma said.

The Colts, who were averaging a MWL-best 51.1 points, made only five of their first 26 shots from the field against the Wolverines and trailed 18-11 at halftime and 21-11 midway through the third quarter.

But Nelson hit a three-pointer and turned a steal into a three-point play in a span of 20 seconds to spark a momentum-turning 13-1 run. Following a three-pointer by Brittany Hendrickson, Nelson had another steal and layup to tie the score 22-22 at the 2:50 mark of the third. On Thurston’s next possession, Megan Buster scored inside to give the Colts their first lead of the game, 24-22.

“That’s the type of kid that never rests, she never stops, whether she has the ball or doesn’t have the ball,” Tuma said of Nelson. “She’s just a tough person to guard because you don’t get to rest no matter what.”

There were three ties and four lead changes the rest of the way, with Thurston going up for good on a free throw by Buster with 27.4 seconds left that made it 30-29.

Willamette had two chances to take the lead, but a three-pointer by Alyssa Worthen hit off the rim with 10 seconds left, and Tori Mahaffie also missed on putback layup with Nelson getting the final rebound.

Worthen finished with 11 points.

Saturday, January 23
Aggressive Colts at full gallop

Aggressive Colts at full gallop

| Thurston gains momentum before halftime on the way to a 51-39 win over Springfield

Appeared in print: Saturday, Jan 16, 2010

SPRINGFIELD — Mercedes Russell had her way with No. 2 Thurston on Friday night. The Colts just made sure no one else did.

Thurston overcame a slow start and a stellar performance from Springfield’s standout freshman to record a 51-39 Midwestern League girls basketball victory at home for its fifth straight win.

Elise Nelson had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Colts (10-2, 3-0 MWL), and Kelli Rice added 16 points, including 12 in a 22-point second quarter, when Thurston turned a four-point deficit into a 28-18 lead by halftime.

“We just got more aggressive,” Nelson said. “It definitely gave us momentum going into halftime.”

And helped neutralize Russell’s production. The 6-foot-3 post had 22 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. She made 9-of-10 attempts from the field, with her only miss coming with 40 seconds left in the game.

But the Millers (6-5, 1-2) were unable to get much else on offense. The rest of the team was 7-of-40 from the field to go with 15 turnovers and often, Springfield was unable to get the ball inside to Russell, who always had a size advantage.

“That was part of it,” Springfield coach Chuck Wenger said. “And the other part is we didn’t shoot very well from the outside at all. We have got to be able to take the pressure off of her.”

The Millers held a 10-6 advantage after the first quarter but the Colts opened the second quarter on a 7-0 run to go up 13-10. Rice scored five points during that stretch on two free throws and a three-point play.

A pair of baskets inside by Russell tied the score at 18-all three minutes before halftime, but Rice scored on a layup and a rebound basket to spark a 10-0 run to end the first half.

“We just picked up our defense and decided we weren’t going to let them score anymore,” Rice said.

“Our mindset was to just go hard and finish them.”

Rice kept it going in the second half, draining a three-pointer in the opening minutes to put the Colts up 31-20.

“She’s done that before,” Thurston coach Michelle Tuma said.

“A lot of people expect Elise Nelson to be the one who steps up, but Kelli Rice also has stepped up tons of times.”

Nelson did most of her damage late, with five points in the final 4:20 of the third quarter and then seven more during a 9-0 run in the first three minutes of the fourth that put Springfield away.

Friday, January 22
Thurston girls knock off Russell and Millers, 51-39

Thurston girls knock off Russell and Millers, 51-39

Published: January 22, 2010

By Matt Singledecker

Springfield Times Intern

Thurston girls basketball coach Michelle Tuma knew handling Springfield's 6'3" Mercedes Russell would be too tall of an order in the post.

So, trailing 10-6 at the beginning of the second quarter last Friday at Colt Coliseum, Tuma changed the Colts' defense to a sagging man-to-man that limited Russell's touches down low. Thurston then went on a 22-8 run that gave the Colts a 28-18 halftime lead and basically put the game away. The Colts beat the Millers 51-39 for their fifth consecutive victory.

"We tried to slow (Russell) down as best we could and our girls did a good job of using their experience to defend her," Tuma said. "This was a big rivalry game, it's kind of like the Civil War, records get thrown out and both teams really got after it."

Elise Nelson had 19 points and 11 rebounds while her backcourt mate Kelli Rice chipped in 16 points, including 12 during the deciding second quarter spurt.

"We started attacking the basket a lot more and got some fouls on Mercedes," Rice said. "After that she wasn't as aggressive and we had a lot of people step up tonight."

Rice used an assortment of three-pointers, mid-range jumpers and sky-scraping teardrops over the towering Russell to give the Colts momentum heading into the second half.

"Kelli has done that before. She really rises to the occasion when we need her," Tuma said. "A lot of people expect Elise Nelson to step up, but Kelli has done it a lot for us, too."

Russell had an outstanding performance despite the extra defensive attention with 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting to go along with 11 boards and four blocks.


For more on this story and other news from around the Springfield area, be sure to pick up a copy of the Jan. 22 issue of Springfield Times, available at news racks and stores all around the area. Look under the 'Newspaper Locations' link on this site to find out where. To subscribe to the paper, call 741-7368 or stop by 741 Main St.

Friday, January 8
Colts tune up for league play

Colts tune up for league play with 56-31 win over Lebanon

Published: January 8, 2010

By Craig Murphy

Springfield Times Editor

It's not too often a basketball coach uses the word unselfish in a negative sense.

But that was the case Tuesday as Thurston girls basketball coach Michelle Tuma talked about her team's early 7-0 deficit against Lebanon at Colt Coliseum.

"At the beginning we were being unselfish," Tuma said. "Elise Nelson was trying to be too unselfish."

Once the Colts got rolling with an early 8-0 run, it was smooth sailing. No. 2 Thurston (7-2) led 28-21 at half, then outscored the Warriors 28-10 in the second half to win 56-31.

"Everyone was too unselfish at the start," said Nelson, who led the Colts with 15 points. "I was too passive with some of my passes. Once we got going, it was fine. We just started playing smarter."

The Colts never trailed after taking an 11-9 lead late in the first period, but No. 8 Lebanon (7-3) didn't go away quite yet. The Warriors closed to within 15-14 in the second quarter. Near the end of the quarter, Nelson scored six straight points to put Thurston up 26-21, as the momentum was in the favor of the home team.

"We had to pick up the intensity," Nelson said.

Brittany Hendrickson, who scored nine points on the night, said the Colts needed to wake up from the slow start.

"We didn't come out focused," Hendrickson said. "We needed more intensity." 


Friday, January 8
Local teams stay busy during the winter break

Local teams stay busy during the winter break

Published: January 8, 2010

By Matt Singledecker

Springfield Times Intern



The Thurston girls team played at the Nike Interstate Shootout in Lake Oswego, placing seventh. The Colts started with a 51-43 win over Barlow on Dec. 27, led by Elise Nelson's 20 points.

On Dec. 28, Thurston lost 71-24 to Mater Dei out of California, the top-ranked girls basketball team in the country. The Colts trailed 22-11 at halftime.

"The second half was a different story," THS girls coach Michelle Tuma said. "Mater Dei picked up their defensive pressure and full-court trapping defense to force us into 34 turnovers for the game."

The Colts lost the next day 64-40 to Beaverton, but came back to knock off McNary 57-52 on Dec. 30.

"It was a nail biter," Tuma said. "We were down 45-34 in the fourth quarter. Behind Kelli Rice's 19 points in the fourth quarter, we came back."

Rice ended with 25 points on the night, going 6-for-7 from three-point range.

Thursday, December 23
Five Colts in double figures as Thurston girls rout South Albany, 78-30
Five Colts in double figures as Thurston girls rout South Albany, 78-30

Published: December 23, 2009


By Matt Singledecker

Springfield Times Intern

After squeaking by Crescent Valley 41-36 last Tuesday, Thurston girls basketball coach Michelle Tuma was disappointed.

"Our goal is to get better every day, every game and every practice," Tuma said. "We were frustrated after the Crescent Valley game because we didn't play our best."

It's safe to say the Colts got a lot better against South Albany last Friday with a 78-30 throttling. Thurston forced 21 turnovers and had five players score in double figures.

"We have five people who can step up and score for us, and they also play good defense which we did tonight," Tuma said. "We set the tone in the first quarter with our defense. We made a couple mistakes but we got better."

Thurston opened the game in a 2-2-1 press that pestered the Rebel guards into nine turnovers in the first quarter alone. The Colts turned their defense into offense with lay-ups after steals and didn't give up a basket until there was 1:42 left in the first. They led 21-8 at the end of the quarter.

"Our goal is to hold teams to nine points a quarter and 35 a game," said Kayla Ping, who paced the Colts with 16 points. "We want to be the best defensive team in the league."


For more on this story and other news from around the Springfield area, be sure to pick up a copy of the Dec. 25 issue of Springfield Times, available at news racks and stores all around the area. Look under the 'Newspaper Locations' link on this site to find out where. To subscribe to the paper, call 741-7368 or stop by 741 Main St.