Indians have won their last two games, including a 60-7 win over Yamhill-Carlton

Midway through what could very well have been a rebuilding year, what with a brand new coach and fresh style of play, the Scappoose girls' basketball team is beginning to pick up some traction. They've won five of their last seven games, and are fresh off a pair of victories as they close out the first round of the Cowapa League season.

The latest of which, a 45-36 win over Astoria Tuesday, propelled the Indians into sole possession of third place in the league, evening their overall record at 9-9 and keeping them within a game of Banks for second place overall. And with Banks coming back to square off with Scappoose on Feb. 11, there's a definite shot for the Tribe to move up the ladder.

“I'd like to be one step up instead of third,” said first-year head coach David Spirlin. “We still have an opportunity to do that. I'm happy with the progress, but we're not done yet, so we kind of look back, and hindsight's always 20/20, and see some missed opportunities that we had to get the RPI up.”

Spirlin lamented losing the team's first game against Banks, where Scappoose fell 37-30 in a tight contest when the Indians simply failed to close out the game. The loss against Central, which came on Dec. 26 at the Stayton High School tournament, is another game Spirlin points to as a chance to better their ranking by taking down a solid opponent. It's all about taking advantage of opportunities, and when the door was open for Scappoose to take control of third place by beating Astoria – who was tied with Scappoose heading into the contest – he told the team they needed to seize the chance.

“We talked about taking advantage of opportunities,” he said. “Winning on another team's home court is an opportunity to get sole first place in the first round right before you start the second round and prepare for the third season.”

The second round, which is the last half of the league season in which Scappoose repeats their opponents once more, is all in preparation for the “third season,” or the playoffs. At the moment, Scappoose would host a league play-in game with the chance to make the round of 16 teams. Spirlin doesn't want to take that chance, but several things need to happen in the meantime.

Firstly, Scappoose has to get healthy. Senior guard Alix Raya, who broke a finger in what Spirlin called a “freak accident” a few weeks ago, finally returned to the lineup. Unfortunately, her return coincided with the loss of senior Brittany Catlow, who was injured during a practice drill and will likely be out several weeks. The squad has caught the bug – both with injuries and illnesses, and the sideline often has more than one crutch-laden player. At the moment, getting healthy is a focus, as the team will have trouble finding a rhythm without the full roster.

There are other issues, though, that Spirlin would like to fix. A definite change from his early-season message of ‘buying in,' ‘bad habits' and the like, Spirlin said the team has bought in as a whole, but not everyone is making the right decision every time.

“They have [bought in], it's just not always what they do first when they get in a pressure situation,” said Spirlin. “They know what to do, but in basketball, you react. Sometimes when you get in that situation where you have to react right now, some of them revert to what's comfortable and not what I'm teaching them, but those times are getting less and less.”

Even with players missing from the roster and senior Lacey Updike on the bench to start the contest, everything came together in a dominant 60-7 win last Friday over Yamhill-Carlton, who has struggled mightily to score this season. The Tigers netted all seven of their points in the first half, and even when Spirlin pulled back on the press, moved to a zone and simply let the girls play, the Indians kept pulling away.

Spirlin said the girls did exactly as they were supposed to: play the game not the scoreboard, and work hard on every play.

“Everybody takes their lumps,” he said. “Everybody has their turn to be on one end or the other … and we've been that. We got beat by 40 points at Seaside, and nobody was rushing to feel sorry for me, you know, it’s part of the game.”

Looking ahead, the Indians' toughest games will be at home, but they'll have their work cut out for them. Both Banks and Seaside are above Scappoose in the ratings, and they'll need to beat one or both in order to move up, barring a collapse of either team. A consistent game with good ball security and good rebounding might be the secret to knocking off Banks on Feb. 11, but the Feb. 14 game with Seaside will be a different animal.

Before their home stretch, the Indians will travel to face Tillamook, who they beat 65-45 on Jan. 21, but poses a threat with their size advantage in the middle. With the season reaching its midway point, the boys' and girls' schedules will switch, with the girls' games scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

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