West Linn girls beat West Salem 57-36 to open playoffs
The West Linn girls basketball team has been led by a quartet of talented seniors all season long, and those four made their presence felt again in the Lions' 2018 state playoff opener.
That said, there's no two ways around it — the youth movement was on during the Lions' 57-36 win over West Salem in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs on Tuesday night at West Linn High School.
West Linn freshmen and sophomores scored 41 of the team's 57 points on Tuesday, those efforts led by freshman post Aaronette Vonleh's 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, while freshman post/wing Makayla Long added 15 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks, three assists and four steals.
"It was a lot of fun," Long said. "We definitely are an athletic team and a quick team, and we like to use speed for our defense."
"We just came in knowing that we wanted to win and that we wanted to make it to the (state tournament) so coming in with that mindset helped us," Vonleh said. "We just took what the coaches said and executed and played basketball."
With the win, the fourth-ranked Lions — the runners-up in the Three Rivers League — improved to 22-3 overall and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs. There, the Lions will host No. 13 Mt. Hood Conference champion Oregon City (17-8 overall after a 51-41 home win over McNary on Tuesday) at 7 p.m. Friday night. No. 30 West Salem, the sixth-place finisher from the Greater Valley Conference, finished its season at 10-16.
"We're for sure going to give our all against OC," Long said. "We're going to bring it with all we've got. Credit to them, they're a good team, but we are going to be ready for them."
"(The key is) just having the right mindset and being 100 percent focused, going into the game knowing that you want to win," Vonleh added, "and the home court advantage helps."
The Lions showed the benefit of their home court advantage on Tuesday, breaking open a 6-5 contest with a 17-2 run over the final 5 minutes, 20 seconds of the first quarter that gave the Lions a 23-7 lead.
Long hit five straight shots in that opening quarter (as well as making two steals), while Vonleh scored three times in that 17-2 run, Long connected twice, and senior Lizzy Herrick made a steal and set up senior Lexie Pritchard on a fast break basket with two seconds remaining for that 23-7 lead.
On the other end, the Lions forced nine West Salem turnovers in the quarter and held the Titans to just 3 of 11 shooting from the field.
After that tough start, the Titans awoke in the second period, coming back from a 25-7 deficit with a 10-0 run to close within 25-17. That stretch was highlighted by three baskets by freshman Olivia Rudolph and capped when junior Antonia Gonzales took a Maddy Ailstock pass and scored from the right wing with 3:40 left in the half.
But the Lions finished the half with a Long foul shot, a layin by freshman Audrey Roden, a Vonleh putback and a Pritchard fast break hoop that gave West Linn a 32-20 lead at the half.
Down 12 points at the break, the Titans still trailed just 36-23 after a foul shot by freshman Kyra Scoggin with 4:40 to go in the third quarter. But West Linn made sure West Salem got no closer the rest of the way, closing the period with an 11-4 edge over the final 4:19 of the stanza that included two Vonleh hoops and a 3-pointer from senior Kennedi Byram that made it 47-27 entering the fourth. The Titans got no closer than 19 points in the final frame.
For the game, West Linn forced 23 West Salem turnovers while making 16 of their own. Their emphasis on defense set the tone for the victory, the Lions said.
"Defense is what gets your offense going so we really focused on that," Vonleh said.
"You've just got stay composed no matter what the score is," Long added. "You've always got to play better and outplay the other team no matter who's on the floor, just out hustle the other team."
Rudolph led West Salem with eight points and junior Maddie Bertsch added six in the loss.