Mapleton girls inches from victory on opening night

Coach Clemons gathers her team to diagram a play versus Kennedy on opening night, Dec. 1. (photo by Zac Burtt)

New basketball coach Vanessa Clemons has team headed in right direction

Dec. 8, 2021 — When first-year Mapleton girls basketball Coach Vanessa Clemons took over the Sailor program, she knew it wouldn’t be an instant turnaround. In the previous 10 seasons, Mapleton High School has seen six different girls basketball coaches, one season completely canceled and a mediocre average season record of 5-15. Things are looking up though.

According to Clemons, if she continues to see what she's already seen from her squad, there’s hope for the future.

“Not being from Oregon — let alone coaching 1A ball — I don’t have a lot to go on,” said Clemons. “However, one thing is for sure my kids show up and get after it every day. I think if we continue to work hard and buy in, we will have a lot of success this year.”

The first step in the right direction was Dec. 1 when Mapleton hosted the Kennedy Trojans to open both teams’ season. 

The Sailors and Trojans went back and forth all game and things were tied at 10 apiece at the half.

At times playing lockdown defense, the home team was playing with the fire of a team excited about the new beginning the first game of the season brings. The Sailors seemed to have control of the game for most of it.

That momentum began to turn in the fourth quarter. Kennedy was finally able to find a way to consistently break the Mapleton full-court press and a late run helped them tie the game at the end of regulation.

Overtime was all Kennedy, and the Trojans built a 4-point lead they never gave up. Kennedy won the game 28-24. 

Kennedy is a 2A school with twice as many students as Mapleton. While the Sailors would have preferred a victory, this was as close to a moral victory as a team can get.

On Dec. 3, Mapleton traveled to Elkton for another non-league matchup. The Sailor offense was more active than on opening night but did not score quite enough. Mapleton fell 33-21.

“I am super excited about what I saw in the first two games,” said Clemons. “In the first game we were in position to win. Defensively, in both games, we looked amazing in pieces. We just have to find a way to put it all together. Second game, we put up a lot more shots, which I was very happy about. We’ve got to work on doing the little things well. The entire team and coaching staff are very optimistic about our start and the remainder of the season.”

Senior Opal Burruss was leading scorer in both games for Mapleton.

The Sailors faced Umpqua Valley Christian at home on Dec. 7 after press deadlines. This weekend, Mapleton will compete in the Cow Creek Classic in Riddle. Their first game of the tournament is against Camas Valley at 3 p.m. on Friday. The second game of the tournament will be Saturday against a team to be determined.