It's not easy, but Tigers top Tualatin
TUALATIN — The Tigard High School girls basketball team clinched a least a share of the Three Rivers League championship.
But, getting that key league victory didn't come easy, and it didn't come without worry.
The Tigers' rivals made sure of that.
Tigard, after battling close with rival Tualatin throughout, was finally able to pull away from the Timberwolves in the fourth quarter to get a 58-45 victory in a TRL game played Tuesday at Tualatin High School.
"It was a tough one," said Tigard sophomore guard Kennedy Brown, who scored nine points in the victory. "We've been so successful. We know we have a target our our backs. We knew it would be a big game, and they showed up to play."
"We came prepared," said Tigard junior post Dani Lyons, who had a double-double, with 13 points and 11 rebounds. "We came prepared, but we weren't mentally prepared enough. Tualatin came out and played hard."
With the win, Tigard improved to 14-0 in TRL play (19-3 overall), putting the Tigers alone in first place in the league standings. Tigard can clinch sole possession of the league crown with a win in one of its last two regular-season games, including Friday's home contest against Canby.
"The goal always is to be first," Lyons said.
"Canby will be just as tough as this," Brown said.
With the setback, Tualatin moved to 6-9 in TRL games (10-13 overall), keeping the Wolves in fifth place in the league standings.
"We were fired up," said Tualatin junior Natali Denning, who led all scorers in Tuesday's game with 18 points. "We started off strong, and we gave them a good fight."
Tigard, getting four points from Lyons and a 3-point basket by junior guard Paige LaFountain, grabbed an early 11-7 lead in the contest. But Tualatin came fighting back. The Wolves, getting a basket on a baseline drive by senior guard Mikah Springer, a pair of free throws by Denning and a long, buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Denning, rallied to claim a 14-13 lead at the end of the opening period.
The game stayed close throughout the second quarter. Tigard, getting 3-pointers from sophomore Delaney Leavitt and LaFountain, and a steal and layup by Lyons, took a 24-20 lead with 2 minutes and 19 seconds left to play in the period.
Tualatin, again, came battling back. Denning connected on another 3-pointer and freshman post Natalie Lathrop sank a pair of free throws in the final 2:06 of the quarter, helping trim the Tiger lead to 26-25 at halftime.
Tigard started to take control early in the third quarter. Lyons scored five unanswered points to open the period. LaFountain sank another 3-pointer and Brown added a free throw, helping the Tigers up the margin to 35-29 going into the fourth quarter.
Tigard kept rolling in the final stanza. Tiger junior guard Campbell Gray scored 10 points in the period. Brown and LaFountain each scored four points in the quarter, and senior guard Gabby McGaughey added three points, as Tigard was able to pull away to get the 58-44 victory.
"Our defense got us going," Brown said. "We played good defense in the second half."
"We had to focus on defense," Lyons added.
LaFountain led a balanced Tigard scoring attack with 14 points. Lyons, effective in the paint, was next for the Tigers with her 13 points.
"I've been waiting for a game like that," she said with a smile. "It just clicked tonight."
Gray had 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Brown had eight rebounds and three steals to go with her nine points. Leavitt added seven points for the Tigers.
Tigard, as a team, made 20 of 50 shots from the field, with four 3-point baskets, and 14 of 19 free-throw attempts.
Denning had six rebounds and four steals to go with her game-high 18 points. Senior guard Maija Girardi added 10 points for the Wolves. Springer scored seven and Lathrop had six points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.
Tualatin, as a team, made 15 of 46 shots from the field, with three 3-pointers, and 11 of 16 free-throw attempts.
"It was fun," Denning said. "In the first half, we were sharing the ball well and our shots were falling. I was fired up."
Tigard, following its 5:45 p.m. game with Canby on Friday, will finish its TRL slate Tuesday with a 7 p.m. game at Lake Oswego. Tualatin will finish its league schedule Tuesday with a 7 p.m. home game against Sherwood.