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Tribe girls' basketball slowly begins to 'gel'

Scappoose falls to La Salle, but good signs are beginning to show through


by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Kaylee Kopra drops to the ground, wrestling for possesion during the second half of Scappoose's loss to La Salle on Thursday night. The Indians have had a brutal stretch of games, facing three teams who are, or have been, ranked in the top four in their respective divisions. Following another blowout loss, their second in as many nights, the Scappoose High School girls’ basketball team lingered in the locker room until long after most fans had left the building. It wasn’t until the staff at La Salle High began to lock the doors and prepare to shut off the lights that players began to trickle into the lobby, interrupted by the overshadowing silhouette of head coach David Spirlin.

He greeted a few of the sarcastically disgruntled parents as they jokingly complained about the wait to see their young athletes, but the reasoning behind the delay wasn’t due to an extended pep talk or a firey lecture from Spirlin.

It was the team. The Indians lost 82-46 on the road at La Salle, but the girls didn’t hang their heads. They wanted to be better.

“The girls wanted to know what the difference was between last night and tonight, and (what) my response (was) to them,” said Spirlin, who told the team he saw a massive shift in their desire from the previous night’s loss to Valley Catholic.

“We didn’t transition well, we made some mistakes, but the effort was better tonight than it was last night,” he said. “That’s something we can build on. We’ve still got to get rid of some bad habits. It’s still early. This is only our sixth game.”

Against the Valiants on Wednesday evening, the Indians threw the ball away 40 times, and dropped a 40-point loss on their home floor. They broke under the relentless pressure Valley Catholic showed all night long, pressing from the moment the ball crossed the free-throw line in the backcourt. Spirlin had little control of the game’s flow, as the things he told the team during time outs went out the window once the girls stepped back on the court.

The very next night, that was all different. Scappoose had flashes of success, and though they were limited in length, Spirlin was finally able to work on things. The Indians were able to get La Salle into serious foul trouble in the first half - allowing Scappoose to go 11 for 14 at the line - and found themselves able to push the ball down the floor and look for easy shots under the basket.

The end of the first half had the road team trailing 44-23 at the break, but Scappoose had a solid start to the third quarter, playing the Falcons even for the first four minutes until La Salle started bombing away to end the period. La Salle hit a trio of three pointers down the stretch to enter the fourth quarter with a 64-37 lead.

The Indians faded away as the game reached the final few minutes, but the impact had already been made. Even dating back to the loss at Cascade on Dec. 16, Scappoose had started to show a different side of themselves. A difficult match up on the road against an experienced and talented team would have most expecting a blowout, and for most of the game, it was. Down 20, the Indians made a push, and fought to within eight points before the final buzzer.

Spirlin said he was proud of the effort in the Cascade game, believing the team would have cut even further into the lead if given a little more time. The week didn’t get any easier, and though things haven’t been easy with three straight losses, Spirlin says the effort and desire from the athletes has been a major blessing.

“That’s every coach’s dream, to have a team that wants to be better,” he said. “I can see they want to do it, it’s just when we get pressured – I tell my high school kids all the time – we’re creatures of habit. We do things we’re comfortable with and what we’re familiar with.”

The hard part of coaching - motivation - out of the way, Spirlin can continue to develop the players to fit the system he has in mind. At the moment, the change hasn’t been a simple one, or a transition without some frustrating results.

“They do what they’re comfortable and familiar with, because what I’m teaching them is not comfortable right now. It’ll get comfortable, but it’s not comfortable yet,” said Spirlin. “They’re on the floor, thinking about what I’m trying to get them to do. Once I get them to stop thinking and react, we’ll be pretty good. Right now, we’re in the thinking stage.”

The three-game-week in concert with one of the most difficult stretches for any team in the state (Central was ranked No. 1, La Salle is ranked No. 2 and Valley Catholic ranked No. 3 in Class 3A) has made for a tired bunch, but Spirlin says the hard times will turn into a better group in the future.

“The only way to get better is to play good competition,” he said. “This is gonna help us down the line. It hurts right now, stings like heck, but down the line we can look back at this experience and say, ‘you know what? We played some really good teams in the preseason and were able to do some good things. We can do this.’”

SUMMARY:

La Salle 82, Scappoose 46

SCP 12 11 14 9 - 46

LSF 24 20 20 16

Scappoose: Kessi 15, Catlow 8, Updike 7, Courtney 4, Wight 4, Raya 2, Vardanega 2, Spang 2, Sykes 2

La Salle: Jensen 15, McSmith 14, Cook 10, Swift 9, Novak 8, Ilg 6, Portash 4, Buerk 4, T. Goodman 4, A. Goodman 2, Tran 2, Crain 2