MISSOULA — Payson Jacobson has scored numerous layups, but this one had a special meaning.
Balancing on her right foot, the injured Loyola Sacred Heart senior was given an uncontested shot on the first possession of Tuesday’s game so she could score her final high school basket at the Sister Rita Mudd Activity Center on Senior Night, a 54-46 Loyola win.
“I was thinking about how lucky I was to play with these girls for the past four years and be coached by Travis (Walker) for this past one,” Jacobson said after the game, back on her crutches. “It was special to be able to go out there with those girls.”
The plan to let Jacobson score one final time in her Breakers jersey was set in motion after Loyola beat Deer Lodge 50-41 in triple overtime on Jan. 19.
She had rolled her left ankle again during that game, and this time it was bad enough she opted to have season-ending surgery. It was the second year in a row she had the same reconstructive surgery, last year needing it on her right ankle.
When she told her first-year head coach, Travis Walker, that she’d be out for the year, Walker contacted Anaconda head coach Brian Evans to see if his plan would be OK for Senior Night.
“I wish I could have coached her all four years,” Walker said. “She’s the ultimate player, the ultimate person, the ultimate teammate. Everything that you would want your daughter to be when they grow up, that’s Payson. She’ll do anything you ask of her and then some. She’s an incredible girl.”
On Tuesday, she made her layup with ease before Loyola gave Anaconda a free layup at the other end to even out the score.
“I was a little worried at first,” Jacobson said. “My dad, he was teasing me, like, ‘What if you miss it?’ Well, it might happen. I got a warmup shot in, so I felt better about it.”
She won’t be playing any more, but she’ll continue school at Gonzaga, where she’ll study pre-med to become a pediatrician.
Loyola closed the game on a 10-5 run to stave off an Anaconda comeback attempt.
Loyola’s Sam Clevenger, who hadn’t scored a field goal since the first quarter, knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner to give Loyola a 47-41 lead. Kylie Esh added a 3-pointer the next possession to make it 50-41. Anaconda didn’t get any closer than 50-44.
“Sam does a good job of staying mentally focused in the game, knowing at some point that that ball in going to come back and she’s going to get a look,” Walker said. “She does a great job of being ready to knock them down.”
Breakers sophomore Sydney Koppang scored eight of her 11 points during the second half to go with six assists, all in the first half. Teammate Tessa Burke finished with 11 points, two in the second half.
“Syd does a very good job getting everybody moving, making the correct decisions,” Walker said. “When her time comes, she’s ready to knock the shots down. We have a lot of faith in her.”
Sydnie Peterson tallied 16 points, and Johannah Forsberg added 12 for the Copperheads.
Trailing 10-8 late in the first quarter, Burke started a 13-0 Loyola run with a fast-break layup. The Breakers led 11-10 after the first quarter and began the second quarter with the first 11 points to take a 22-10 lead.
Anaconda opened the second quarter with one missed shot, one turnover, two missed free throws and three travels. The Copperheads’ first points came when Peterson stole the ball and scored a fast-break layup with 4:15 left in the half.
Koppang, already with six assists, scored her first basket on a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to give Loyola a 31-20 lead at the intermission.
The Breakers missed their first nine field-goal attempts of the third quarter and had their lead cut to 34-31 before Koppang collected an offensive rebound and scored the put-back bucket. She rattled in a 3-pointer two possessions later, and Loyola pushed its lead to 41-31.
Peterson scored six points during a 10-3 run across the third and fourth quarters that got Anaconda within 44-41 before Loyola's back-to-back 3-pointers.
“We came out strong, had a big letdown at the start of the second quarter, fought back in the second half,” Evans said. “We held Tessa (Burke) to two points (in the second half), which led to our comeback. They had some other girls step up and hit big shots, so we couldn’t pull it through.”
Scotty Twite scored 20 points for the Loyola boys' team, but the Rams lost at Anaconda in overtime, 64-60. The win gave the Copperheads the 6B title.
Anaconda's Braxton Hill scored a game-high 30 points.
The Rams and Copperheads were tied after all four quarters, and Anaconda came out ahead 10-6 in overtime.