Lions cant rally from first-half blitz in a playoff loss

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN - Sidney Kolasinski dishes off a pass on a drive during the Lions' playoff game against South Salem. Kolasinski led West Linn with 15 points in the game. The West Linn girls basketball team ran into a South Salem team on a mission Friday and saw its season fall one win shy of a berth in the Moda Center.

The Lions fell 62-44 to the Saxons, who were looking to break a decades-long drought from an appearance in the quarterfinals but West Linn went down swinging.

Playing on the road as the No. 9 seed in the playoffs, the Lions struggled to match South Salem's intensity in the first half and the Saxons blew the game open in the second period.

West Linn managed to slow South Salem down a bit in the opening quarter and was methodical on offense, but it struggled to convert on its chances, especially close to the hoop.

That would be a theme for the Lions all evening as the team missed a bevy of shots from close to the hoop. South Salem's inside presence was a big factor as the Saxons contested everything in the paint and also did a nice job on the glass, limiting West Linn's possessions.

A late basket gave South Salem a 12-6 lead after one quarter and the Saxons then opened the second period on a 9-0 run.

Sidney Kolasinski would respond with an important 3-pointer but South Salem answered immediately on the other end.

As South Salem's lead swelled, so did its confidence. The team used quick ball movement for open looks and hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer, its fourth of the opening half, and led 32-13 at the break.

Kolasinski and Genna Hughes scored all of the Lions' points in the first half.

West Linn made a concerted effort to be more active on defense in the third quarter as it looked to crawl back in the game and immediately created two turnovers in the backcourt which led to layups.

Hughes and Kolasinski continued to spark the Lions on both ends of the court and the deficit was trimmed to 11 points.

That forced South Salem to slow the game down for the final two minutes of the third quarter, stalling to maintain a double-digit advantage with one period to play.

Trailing by 13 points heading into the fourth quarter, South Salem knocked down an early three to hinder the Lions' comeback.

West Linn continued to play with energy and fed the ball to post Morgan Haskin. She responded by scoring nine of her 11 points in the final period.

The Lions gambled defensively, which did lead to turnovers, but also allowed South Salem to convert for some easy opportunities on the other end.

As a result, West Linn struggled to significantly cut into the Saxons' lead.

South Salem was strong at the foul line in the closing minutes as well to seal the victory.

Kolasinski finished with a team-high 15 points.

It was a disappointing finish for the Lions, who made a strong showing in Griffith's first year as head coach. West Linn finished third in the brutal Three Rivers League and was ranked in the top-10 for the majority of the year.

The Lions also tallied wins over then-No.1 St. Mary's and Oregon City in the Pioneers' final season in the TRL.

West Linn uses a good portion of its post game, graduating Haskin and Hughes, along with sharpshooter Ashley Johnson and defensive spark Hannah Matthiessen but returns a core that hopes to build off this season's success.

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