Hard-working St. Helens girls regroup
Both games, they played hard.
But both games, they got behind and couldn't quite get over the hump in the fourth quarter.
The St. Helens girls basketball team has the same objective for the rest of the season, though, despite home losses to Hillsboro (48-38 on Wednesday) and Wilsonville (53-41 on Jan. 26).
"It's the same thing every game — we want to play hard for 32 minutes," first-year coach Brittaney Niebergall said Wednesday night. "Our goal is to get into the state playoffs, but we have to continue to improve and play hard."
St. Helens is 7-11 overall going into Friday's 7:15 p.m. game at Putnam. The Lions' next home game will be 7:15 p.m. Tuesday against Parkrose. Four games are left after that in St. Helens' regular season.
The Lions are also 3-5 in the Northwest Oregon Conference, tied with Putnam for fifth. Parkrose is 0-8 after its 64-17 loss Wednesday at Putnam.
Turnovers were costly for St. Helens against both Wilsonville and Hillsboro.
"We have to do a better job of handling the ball and taking care of the ball," Niebergall said. "We're looking forward to working on that in practice."
Holm hits for 30
St. Helens' scoring leader, 5-foot-10 sophomore Maddie Holm, was a terror against Wilsonville. She rang up a game-high 30 points and easily got into double digits in rebounding, an area she dominated against a team ranked seventh in the state at the Class 5A level by the Oregon School Activities Association.
"She's a heck of a player," Wilsonville coach Justin Duke said of Holm. "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."
Niebergall called Holm "a very special player, both offensively and defensively. She has a great all-around game."
That comes from time spent working on basketball that most people don't see.
"She works so hard ... people don't even know how tough she is," Niebergall said. "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."
The Lions didn't let Wilsonville run away from them. St. Helens trailed 36-32 with six minutes left and had possession of the ball. But a pass went through a Lion's hands and out of bounds and Wilsonville then hit back-to-back 3-pointers for a 45-34 advantage with 4 minutes, 10 seconds left.
Again, St. Helens battled back, closing within 46-40, but there was too much ground to make up and too little time.
Wilsonville coach Duke was impressed with St. Helens' effort and defense — the Wildcats entered as the highest-scoring 5A team in the state at 61.1 points per game but managed only 10 points in each of the first two quarters.
"They outplayed us most of the game," Duke said of the Lions. "We didn't play like the No. 1 scoring offense, and that's a credit to everything Brittaney's doing with her group. ... You can't sleep on St. Helens. Great job by her getting their program going."
Freebies help Hillsboro
On Wednesday, Hillsboro led St. Helens 9-4 after one quarter and 18-13 at the half. The Spartans then won the third quarter 18-10 to go on top by 13 points.
The Lions cut their deficit to six points twice in the fourth quarter, but came up a few conversions short of making a huge comeback.
And Hillsboro was too steady at the free-throw line — going 10 of 11 in each half, including 8 of 8 in the fourth quarter.
"That might be the best we've shot from the line," Spartans coach Sara Harsin said. "I'll take that any day."
Senior 5-5 point guard Katherine Salas was a key for the Spartans. She was productive in just about every facet of the game.
"She was poised. She showed great leadership," Harsin said, noting Salas' four steals, 22 points, six rebounds and 8 of 8 day at the line. "That's a heck of a game."
Said Niebergall: "She (Salas) is a good player. She can shoot and she can drive. It was our job to handle it and we didn't. Credit to her. She did a great job."
Holm, meanwhile, struggled at times against Hillsboro, especially in the early going. She missed her first four shots from the field, all from the outside.
She rallied to finish with 18 points and nine rebounds, but on a 5-for-17 shooting night.
"We wanted to have someone with her at all times," Salas said, "and then go double-team her when she got the ball."
"We wanted to limit Maddie's touches. I can't say that we did that great, but we made her work," Harsin said.
"I was frustrated at times," Holm said, "but sometimes that's just how the game goes."
As Niebergall pointed out, "the great thing about Maddie Holm is she's never going to let anything bother her for too long. She's going to get back out there and grind it out. You never see her drop her head and you don't see the team do that, either."
Senior guard Myranda Northrup chipped in with eight points for the Lions.
"Our main goal is to get a lead and a good start and just carry it through an entire game," Holm said. "We had too many turnovers and fouls that allowed them to shoot free throws."
St. Helens also lost to Hillsboro 45-39 in their league opener on Jan. 5.
The Spartans took the initiative most of the way in the rematch and were rewarded for it.
"We played a little more aggressive than we usually do, which is what we wanted to do," Salas said.
"They played a great game and were very physical," Niebergall said. "We're looking to improve and handle that better in the future. But the girls played hard, worked hard and stuck together as a team, and that's really all you can ask for as a team."