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Lions sophomore pours in 30 points and dominates the rebounding, but visiting Wildcats use late surge to secure sole possession of second place

ST. HELENS — It took well into the fourth quarter, but Wilsonville finally shook the St. Helens' overall grit and one-girl wrecking crew named Maddie Holm for a 53-41 girls basketball victory Friday night.

Holm, a 5-10 sophomore, scored 30 points and dominated on the backboards, as well.

"She's a heck of a player," Wilsonville coach Justin Duke said. "Our game plan was to try to hold her down, and I think we did about the best job we could and she still got us for a lot of points."

In the end, though, the higher-ranked Wildcats (No. 8 in Class 5A going into the evening) escaped the Lions' den and claimed sole possession of second place at the halfway point of the Northwest Oregon Conference race.

Wilsonville improved to 6-1 in league, right behind 7-0 La Salle Prep, which beat Hillsboro 43-23 in Milwaukie to knock the Spartans down to 5-2.

St. Helens, which was ranked No. 25 in 5A by the Oregon School Activities Association, slipped to 3-4 in the NWOC and 7-10 overall.

Wilsonville raised its season record to 14-3.

"So far, so good," Duke said.

With less than six minutes left in Friday's game, St. Helens was down only 36-32 and had the ball. The Lions threw the ball away on that possession, though, and then gave up 3-point baskets to Emily Scanlan and Jessica Classen during a stretch that bumped Wilsonville's lead to 45-34 with 4:10 remaining.

A very scrappy and upset-minded St. Helens fought back again but could get no closer than 46-40.

"It's been a long week for us, with finals, but no excuses — they came out and outplayed us most of the game," Duke said of the Lions.

Reese Timm finished as the Wildcats' leading scorer with 13 points. Fellow junior wing Scanlan had 11 points. Senior wing/post Classen scored nine points, Freshman guard Sydney Burns tallied eight, and junior guard Cydney Gutridge had seven.

Wilsonville came into the game with the highest scoring average in 5A girls (61.1 points per game), but the Wildcats misfired a lot from inside and outside en route to a pair of 10-point quarters in the first half.

The Lions trailed 20-12 at intermission, then won the third quarter 18-16 to pull within 36-30.

Duke said the Wildcats stayed patient through their periods of off-target shooting. He told his team: "Our shots aren't falling, so we've got to move the ball a little better."

He also credited St. Helens' zone defense and the work of the Lions' first-year coach, Brittaney Nieberball.

"We didn't play like the No. 1 scoring offense tonight, and that's a credit to everything Brittaney's doing with her group. Duke said. "They ran that 3-2 or 1-2-2 zone and really gave us some problems for a while.

"She's doing a great job with them here. You can't sleep on St. Helens. Good job by her getting their program going."

Holm was hard to stop, even after picking up her fourth foul 1:17 into the final frame. And on defense, she and the other Lion defenders got hands on a lot of Wilsonville passes.

"Maddie is a very special player, both offensively and defensively. She has a great all-around game," Nieberball said. "And she works so hard … people don't even know how tough she is. We really appreciate her leadership and her work ethic, and she has a lot of teammates that support her and follow the game plan. We're really proud of her and the team."

Holm had a 33-point game last season that broke the school record. She's averaging about 24 points per game. Niebergall estimated that Holm has been averaging a dozen or so rebounds per game, and Holm easily exceeded that against Wilsonville.

"It's all about boxing out," she said. "As long as you can box out, it's yours."

Wilsonville got into foul trouble early, but St. Helens was able to score only two points on free throws during a stretch of more than 9 1/2 minutes in the bonus in the first half.

In the fourth quarter, Wilsonville turned up its defense after starting senior guard Trinity Degraffenreid fouled out with 6:27 to go, then pulled away in the closing 1:13 with seven made free throws.

The second half of the NWOC season starts Wednesday. Wilsonville will visit Milwaukie.

"We have some pretty big goals, looking to the playoffs," Duke said. "We've got to come back from this and improve and know that the target on our back gets bigger every week."

St. Helens will be home again on Wednesday, facing Hillsboro in a key conference battle.

"If we want to win these games, we just have to stay consistent and limit our turnovers," Holm said.

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