Scappoose pulls away after a tight, but slow first quarter

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Lacey Updike gets fouled by Molalla's Josie Child during the first half of Tuesday's victory. Updike led the home team in scoring with 16 points.It's been the story for the Lady Indians all season long: progress, progress, progress. Take a hungry, motivated group of girls and mold them into a fundamentally sound, even-keeled basketball team. At the moment, it looks as though first-year head coach David Spirlin has made some serious headway.

Scappoose (5-7) scampered past Molalla (4-7) on Tuesday evening, overcoming a slow start to blow out the visitors 55-25 behind 16 points from senior guard Lacey Updike and 10 from fellow senior Abby Kessi. They've traded wins and losses over the last six contests, and have just one non-league game left before Cowapa League play begins next week, but Spirlin still isn't finished.

“I'm just waiting for that ‘aha!' moment where everything clicks, and it may take a while. It may be in the middle of league, and we're just going to keep pushing for that,” he said at practice the afternoon following Tuesday's win. “We've got to keep pushing to that (point) where everything's natural and they'll do it the way I'm teaching them when they get pressured. It's a work in progress. We take a couple steps back now and then, but it's still progress.”

The team has made massive strides since their opening few weeks, where the Indians struggled to handle pressure from opposing defenses. Scappoose lost to Valley Catholic and La Salle by a combined 74 points on back-to-back nights, but things have been better, especially in the Indians' ability to break a full court press.

“It's something we work on all the time, as far as the press break,” said Spirlin. “We know we're going to get pressed, and so we talk about what we're going to do as far as taking advantage of that.”

Spirlin has spent time teaching the girls how to turn a negative – an aggressive pressing defense from the moment the ball is inbounded – into a positive. He knows the word is out to press Scappoose, and knows they'll have to prove themselves against the press before teams will stop attempting to use it.

“When we score consistently when they press us and they have to take it off, that shows them (that) it's at their disadvantage to press us,” he said. “We have to show them that. We have to finish our layups. We have to make good decisions. We have to hit the right people at the right time, with the right pass.”

The solution has been twofold: the Indians use a three-on-three drill during practice that forces each player to play denial defense – which is when a player attempts to keep the ball from getting to their mark – as well as help defense. At any given time, the player holding the ball will have two players guarding them with no easy pass out of the double team. It's a difficult drill for both the offense and the defense, but Spirlin wouldn't have it any other way.

“I try to talk to the girls about making each other better by pressuring each other in practice,” he said. “You're not helping your teammate get better if you're going half speed on them. We talk about getting each other game-ready. The more pressure we put on each other, the more we get used to it in game situations.”

Despite the system being fresh to the team, Spirlin says they've made miles of progress from where they were at the start of the season. The ability to handle pressure is much improved, but there are still a few areas of concern, the biggest of which being a consistently slow start to games. The first quarter was the sloppiest period the Indians had on Tuesday evening, and though they picked things up as the game went on, Spirlin knows they can be better.

“We talked about that at the beginning, we talked about it at halftime that we need to put four quarters together,” said Spirlin, who has made a similar speech at many of this season's game. “We need to do that, especially coming up with league. It's one of the bumps in the road we've got to get over.”

With league on the horizon, starting with a Jan. 21 home game against Tillamook (2-10), Spirlin is less worried about the defense, attacking abilities and playing inside out. The biggest problem, at the moment, has little to do with basketball.

“We've come across the injury/illness bug all of the sudden where (somebody has a) broken finger, or got the flu, and it hit us all of the sudden,” said Spirlin. “My concern right now is to get everybody healthy and back. I'd like to attack teams with a full squad, and I can't remember the last time we've had that. Hopefully by league, or right after that, we can have everybody and see what type of team we have.”

For the moment, the team will have to make do without a few of their regular faces, notably senior Alix Raya, who is expected to be out for a few weeks after breaking a finger in practice. The holes in the roster have forced the Indians to be adaptable, which Spirlin says will serve them well.

“You never know what's going to happen in a basketball game,” he said. “You can't predict anything. You don't know how they're going to guard you, you don't know what the refs are going to call. You have to adjust to what's going on. We talk about being ready in each situation. What is being presented to you? Are the refs calling it tight? Are they calling it loose? You have to adjust on the fly.”


Scappoose 55, Molalla 25

MOL 8 4 9 4 – 25

SCA 10 15 15 15 – 55

Scappoose 55: Kessi 10-7, Tinning 2-4, Catlow 8-3, Courtney 0-1, Spang 2-2, Updike 16-6, Vardanega 6-6, Lang 0-2, Bailey 4-6, Wight 6-8, Kopra 1-1

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