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Lions outscore Lava Bears 14-6 in fourth quarter but fall 35-32 in home opener Friday

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: JAKE MCNEAL - St. Helens sophomore post Maddie Holm releases a shot over Bend senior guard Taylyn Hadley (11).

Kaela Lee's 3-point fling just inside the right of the halfcourt line became a Lions prayer as time expired Friday, and it nearly went in.

Instead, the shot rang off the front of the rim and Bend survived its road opener and St. Helens' home premiere, 35-32.

"It is encouraging because we didn't give up," said Lee, a junior post whose Lions attempted their second top-10 upset attempt in four days after falling 39-36 at No. 6 Dallas Dec. 5. "We stuck through it until the very end. No matter what the score is, we have to play our hardest. You still have to play like the score is 0-0."

St. Helens trailed the Lava Bears (4-1 overall) 29-18 through three quarters but outscored them 14-6 in the fourth.

"We really liked the fact that [the girls] never quit believing that they could come back," Lions coach Brittaney Niebergall said. "We got into a nice rhythm in the second half, which allowed us to mount the comeback, even though we fell a little short. We are looking forward to our game tomorrow and to continue to improve."

Bend fed 5-foot-10 senior forward Kayla Rambo, who led her side with 13 points, in the paint as the Lava Bears led 19-9 through a quarter Friday, but Myranda Northrop and Maria Reardon slowed them with transition steals at midcourt.

"I think it's very beneficial when we can get things to click," said Northrop, a senior guard. "Sometimes we make little mistakes here and there, which give us some setbacks, but it's nothing that we can't continue to work on and fix."

Trinity Degraffenreid beat the third-quarter buzzer with a jumper from the right shoulder, but Bend stayed ahead, 31-18.

Maddie Holm's pair of free throws pulled St. Helens to within seven at 33-26 with 5:07 left in the evening as it switched to man defense and ran the offense through Holm, who hit four of six from the stripe and scored eight of her 15 points in the fourth, beneath the basket.

"I think it definitely gives us lots of confidence and drive to finish out the rest of the game strong and all future games as well," said Holm, a sophomore post. "As for being a go-to player, to me I'm just another teammate and member of the time."

Lee's triple from the left shoulder kept the Lions alive down 34-32 with 58 seconds left, but Lava Bears junior guard Trinity Barudoni split two free throws and Bend led 35-32 at 33 seconds.

Junior guard Sydney Gardner missed her bonus free throw at 24 seconds, and St. Helens called a timeout at 19.5.

Lava Bears sophomore guard Kaycee Brown also missed her bonus free throw after a Lions miss, and Lee's last-second heave ricocheted off the backboard and the rim at the horn.

Bend's lead evaporated as it sank two of 11 fourth-quarter free throws and came away 5-for-14 in the evening.

St. Helens' 46-40 loss to visiting Mountain View (1-3) Dec. 9 became its third defeat in a row by six or fewer points, though Holm's 19 points and 11 rebounds kept the Lions' motor running.

"We had a great start to the ball game in the first half: Probably the best half of basketball we have played up until this point," Niebergall said. "That was very encouraging for us as a team to see that improvement. However, we got bogged down a bit in the second half and reverted back to some old habits that we have been trying to improve upon. We keep seeing a little bit of improvement in each practice and game. We are going to just keep working and looking for a full 32 minutes of consistent play."

St. Helens dominated Woodburn (1-3) in a 60-33 road runaway Tuesday as the Lions (1-4) broke loose and led 32-8 at halftime.

Holm poured in 31 points in St. Helens' biggest win since its 77-30 home defeat of Parkrose Feb. 10, 2016.

"Tonight was a good team win," Niebergall said. "We had a lot of contributions from many players [as Kaela Lee, Northrop and McKayla Foster scored nine, eight and seven respective points]: The girls worked hard and kept continuous focus. We still have a lot of work to do, and we look forward to getting back to it at practice tomorrow and getting ready to play The Dalles [and 5-foot-10 all-Columbia River Conference senior post Jodi Thomasian (3-2) at home at 7:15 p.m.] on Friday."

BEND 35, ST. HELENS 32

Friday, Dec. 8, in St. Helens

B 8 11 10 6 -- 35

SH 4 5 9 14 -- 32

BEND (3-0) -- Kayla Rambo 13, Cambree Scott 8, Sydney Gardner 6, Trinity Barudoni 4, Kaycee Brown 2, Caitlin Wheeler 2. Total fouls -- 12. Totals 15 5-14 35.

ST. HELENS (0-3) -- Maddie Holm 15, Trinity Degraffenreid 6, Kaela Lee 3, Madi Flores 3, Myranda Northrop 3, McKayla Foster 2. 3-point goals -- 3 (Northrop, Lee, Flores). Total fouls -- 9. Fouled out -- Northrop. Totals 11 7-10 32.

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