Mountainside girls hoops hammers Axe, advances in 6A playoffs
Oregon City can't rest easy just yet.
Once Mountainside got over the first round Class 6A girls' basketball playoff stage fright against South Eugene, the young Mavericks looked the part of a state tourney spoiler in a 54-29 victory at Mountainside High School on Tuesday. The sophomore-heavy roster did so without the services of superstar Cameron Brink, relying on the talents of Lindsey Wilson, Carly Stone and Halle Hageman who held it down and dominated the second half collectively.
But the best news of the night, other than the Mavericks advancing to the second round of the postseason, came after the contest's conclusion. Brink, whose left foot was in a walking boot for a few weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain against Jesuit, was taken out of the boot and cleared by her doctor to start movement exercises on Tuesday afternoon. There is a possibility, if the next two or three days go well with physical rehabilitation, that the McDonald's All American could suit up against Oregon City in the second round of the 6A playoffs on Friday night. Imagine the look on the Pioneers' faces as Brink and the 12th-ranked Mavericks walk into Oregon City's hallowed ground arena with a chance to go to the Chiles Center?
Mountainside has won five of its last six including the last three by 20 or more points. The momentum is swelling. The Mavericks' confidence is climbing after winning their first playoff game in school history. Plunge Brink back into the starting lineup and it's like dropping napalm into a hornet's nest.
Her young teammates proved themselves big-time with a second half turnaround against South Eugene, stepping up huge without their breadwinner in the middle. Mountainside only made one second quarter field goal, which didn't transpire until there was less a minute to go in the first half. But the Mavericks' man to man defense got stops when it needed to most. And even as the Axe chopped up Mountainside's first quarter lead as the Mavericks couldn't find the cup, they weren't able to fully separate. Credit Mountainside's defensive determination. Though their shots didn't fall, and their superstar was sidelined, the Mavericks made South work, especially when they didn't turn the ball over and forced the Axe set up shop in the half court. Stone was Mountainside's main, and frankly lone, source of offense in the first half, scoring 12 of her team's 16 points. In fact, she poured in the Mavericks' last 12 points of the half. Stone's left-wing three off a hit ahead pass from Hageman in transition with 50 seconds left in the half made it 17-16.
"I was definitely feeling some nerves, I was just lucky enough that my shots were falling," Stone said with a smile. "Playoff basketball is sped up. We're all nervous. We're all freaking out. It's survive and advance, so everyone is playing to win. The game is a lot faster. Shots are going up faster. Everyone is more aggressive. In the end, it's who can outrun the other team? We got it in the end. We picked it up."
Without question, whatever Mountainside discussed at intermission worked in every way in the second half. Wilson scored six points in the third, all off of offensive rebounds. Hageman had a blow by layup and then hit a right-wing three off a Stone dribble handoff to give Mountainside a 25-21 lead.
"We realized we either win or we're done," Stone said. "Our minds turned on and our hearts bounced back up. We just wanted it more than they did."
A Wilson block led to a Hageman pull-up jumper in transition. Then Wilson snared another offensive rebound, put a defender under the rim with power dribble and finished off the glass for an and-one to extend Mountainside's lead to 34-24. Whatever funk, whatever nerves that seemed to bedevil the Mavs in the first half completely dissolved. Wilson was a force on the block. Smith and Stone spaced the floor. Hagemann was at her best in the open court, using her speed and shotmaking to get rolling. Mountainside was surefooted and aggressive after settling into the playoff intensity.
"We wanted to take the best possible look and make the most out of our possessions," Stone said. "In the first half, we were kind of going up (to the rim) soft. The refs weren't on our side. They were letting us play the whole time, which was nice, we just had to adjust. We were strong, got on the boards and got back into it."
Hagemann hit another three off a Wilson kickout pass and Smith buried a trey of her own after dropping a double crossover on a sliding South Eugene defender to open the fourth. The Mavs scored 16 points in the first half but 20 in the third quarter alone and 16 more in the fourth. Stone and Hagemann each led Mountainside with 14 points. Wilson and Smith both chipped in 10 apiece.
"It was good team basketball the whole time, there wasn't one person dominating," Stone said. "In the second half, I was totally happy with making plays without the ball in my hands. That's my favorite type of basketball. I love making those passes, getting those assists."
When Brink graduates this summer and moves onto Stanford, this group she's helped shepherd will stay behind. They've grown exponentially this season and demonstrated as much on the state playoff stage. Whether Brink plays on Friday or not, Mountainside wants to show its future is still bright.
"We're out for blood," Stone said. "Everyone is looking past us next year. So, now it's about proving a point. We don't have a target on our back anymore. We just have to have come out strong and faster than (Oregon City) and aggressive on defense and offense. We have to get out of the gates and go."
And if Brink gets full clearance before Friday's 7 p.m. tip time? Lord help the 6A contenders hoping she's on the sideline. Brink was on the bench Tuesday night and was seen walking around without a noticeable limp. She sat near the coaches at the front of the bench, cheering, shouting out instructions, clapping for her teammates. When Wilson went on her second half rampage, Brink was the first to get off the pine and give her sophomore teammate a playful shove. This is a game-changing player who's seen it all, done it all in the state playoffs. Two years ago, as a Southridge sophomore, Brink rolled her ankle against Canby in the second round of the playoffs but was back on the floor three days later in the 6A quarterfinals. She's a quick healer who has youth and athleticism on her side. Her presence automatically gives Mountainside a chance against the Pioneers, even if she's less than 100 percent. Brink is the ultimate x-factor in the state championship race, a determining factor that could swing the state title fate for as many as six different teams. All eyes will be on that left ankle come Friday.
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