Oregon City wins a big one at Clackamas

by: JOHN LARIVIERE - Oregon City coach Kurt Guelsdorf celebrates with Taylor Shaw (41) and Jessica Gertz (1) following the Pioneers 52-50 win at Clackamas. Oregon City sophomore Cierra Walker (10) also appears delighted with the outcome.Heading into this Tuesday’s (Feb. 25) final Three Rivers League girl basketball games of the season, the Oregon City Pioneers had clinched at least a tie for their 19th league title in the past 20 seasons.

“I’m very proud of these girls and what they’ve accomplished,” said Oregon City coach Kurt Guelsdorf. “At the beginning of the season, with our youth and inexperience, some people in the league picked us to be third or fourth [in the TRL].

“I don’t want to say they’ve overachieved, because that comes with a negative connotation. But I think they’ve maximized what they’ve done with their talent....

“Taking our lumps against very good teams in December has paid dividends. Our goal has been to get better in every game, and I think they have done that.... The girls have practiced hard three hours a day, six days a week for the last four months. And I am very proud of what they have done.”

With a win over West Linn (17-5, 6-3) on Feb. 25, the Pioneers (16-6, 8-1) would win the TRL title outright. With a loss, they’d likely tie Clackamas (18-5, 7-2) for first place.

But, heading into Tuesday’s game with the Lions, more was at stake than the outright team title. With a win over the Lions, the Pioneers might move ahead of Clackamas in the OSAA power rankings, which would give them a higher seed in the Class 6A state playoffs.

Clackamas, Oregon City, West Linn and Canby were ranked fourth, fifth, ninth and 11th respectively in the power rankings entering their final league games.

Oregon City and Clackamas will both host first-round state play-off games next Tuesday, against yet-to-be determined winners from Feb. 28 and March 1 play-in games.

The Pioneers played like champions in a Feb. 18 game at Clackamas, demonstrating poise down the stretch en route to a 52-50 victory.

The game was an intense battle from the opening tip-off, with both teams struggling to make shots they normally make. For the game, the Pioneers made 16-of-55 (.290) field goals; the Cavaliers found the mark on 16-of-49 (.326).

“Extra possessions through offensive rebounds was big for us,” said Oregon City coach Kurt Guelsdorf. “Offensive rebounds and forcing turnovers helped us overcome a poor shooting night.”

Oregon City 5-10 sophomore Taylor Shaw hauled down a career-high 13 rebounds and 5-11 senior Jessica Gertz claimed a career-high 11 rebounds.

Shaw (17 points), Gertz (9 points), freshman point guard N’Dea Flye (9 points) and senior point guard Toria Bradford (6 assists) headed up the Pioneer offense.

Flye played a pivotal role in the Pioneer victory, making baskets and forcing turnovers at crucial times to help turn the momentum in Oregon City’s favor.

The first quarter was pretty much a half-court game, with the Cavaliers in control.

“N’Dea Flye put constant pressure on the defense with her attack, getting to the free throw line and Toria Bradford made some great decisions down the stretch,” Guelsdorf said.

“N’Dea’s always been really strong in practice, and she’s been getting more comfortable out there with every game,” said Oregon City senior co-captain Alyssa Durr. “I think she can be one of the best players out there if she believes in herself.”

Durr said of Shaw, “She’s our big on the floor, even though size-wise she’s not that big.... She leaves it all on the floor every time out, and she has the skill to do it.”

Marissa Kelly’s steal and fast-break bucket a minute into the second quarter gained the Cavaliers’ their biggest lead of the game, at 15-7.

Steals by Gertz, Alyssa Durr, Shaw, Jordan Kelly and Katie Kammerer helped Oregon City close the gap, as the Pioneers increased the tempo of play.

Kelly’s 3-pointer with 2:12 left in the half knotted the score for the first time, at 22-22.

A short time later, Kelly was fouled on the fast break and her free throw gained the Pioneers a lead that they would never relinquish.

A fast-break basket by Kelly made it 25-22 Oregon City.

Clackamas’ team was dinged with a technical foul for too many players on the floor when a player stepped on the floor to enter the game without permission from the officials.

Gertz’ free throw made it 26-22 and Toria Bradford followed with a lay-up to make it 28-22 Oregon City at the half.

Durr’s 3-pointer 2-1/2 minutes into the third period gained the Pioneers their biggest lead of the night, at 32-23.

The Cavaliers battled back and closed the gap as the pace of play slowed. They were within a point twice early in the fourth quarter, trailing 34-33 and 37-36.

Oregon City stretched the lead back up to eight points, at 49-41, just inside a minute to play.

Clackamas senior wing Sydney Azorr hit two threes and Reiner added her fifth 3-pointer of the game as time wound down. But Bradford and Gertz made enough free throws down the stretch for the Pioneers to hang on for the 52-50 victory.

Reiner (16 points on 5-of-7 shooting, 3 assists), Erica Pagano (15 points, 4 assists) and Sydney Azorr (12 points) scored in double figures to lead Clackamas.

“Defensively I thought we did the job we needed to do on most of their players,” said Clackamas coach Todd Lane. “But we missed a ton of shots around the basket.... “The league title stuff is out of our hands now. We need to take care of business with Lakeridge and Canby.”

“Clackamas is an excellent basketball team and to win in their gym was a big victory,” said Guelsdorf. “Todd Lane does a great job with his team. They were well prepared and well coached.”

Asked the key to the Pioneer victory at Clackamas, Durr said, “I think we just wanted it more. Us seniors wanted it and the underclassmen stepped it up because they wanted it for the seniors....

“Clackamas has been our biggest rival since fifth grade and to come on their floor and win, it’s really exciting. It puts us in a better position going into the playoffs.”

Of Tuesday’s game with West Linn, Durr said, “The last time we played them we led the whole game, but we didn’t finish. Toward the end we forgot our roles and who we needed to shut down.”

The Pioneers didn’t have any problem shutting down Lake Oswego in last Friday’s home game with the Lakers. Oregon City surged to a 25-1 first-quarter advantage en route to a 73-29 blowout win.

“It was senior night and it was a team effort,” said Guelsdorf. “Fourteen people played and our four seniors started, and they all contributed.”

Led by 5-7 playmaking sophomore Cierra Walker (16 points, 6 assists), 5-7 senior wing Alyssa Durr (15 points), 5-11 senior wing Jessica Gertz (10 points) and 5-6 senior point guard Toria Bradford (7 points, 5 assists), eleven Oregon City players contributed points to the winning tally. Walker was 4-of-6 from 3-point land.

Durr headed the defensive effort, with four steals.

Clackamas got back on the win track last Friday, taking no hostages in a 70-27 rout of Lakeridge.

Eleven Clackamas players scored, led by Peyton Carroll (12 points), Erica Pagano (11 points, 5 assists, 8 rebounds), Erin McDonald (11 points) and Kaitlyn Reiner (9 points).

Freshmen Maddy Oakden and Taylor Morris both hit a pair of 3-pointers.

The Cavaliers were dominant in every phase of the game, connecting on better than 50 percent of their shots from the floor (31-of-60) — with six 3-pointers, claiming a 45-20 advantage on the backboards and forcing 19 turnovers.

Looking ahead to postseason play, Lane said, “The state is so balanced, it’s going to be interesting to see how the power rankings end up. St. Mary’s, Beaverton, us, Oregon City and Westview, any one of us could finish anywhere from second to sixth in the power rankings when the rankings freeze on Wednesday. It’s that close. I’m pretty sure we’ll finish in the top eight, which will mean two home playoff games if we get by the first one [on Tuesday, March 4].”

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