The Gladiators led 19-10 at halftime and then went on a 24-4 run to break open Tuesday's Tri-Valley Conference home game

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Estacada's Karlye Nakashimada looks to make a pass while seated on the floor and under pressure from Gladstone's Aaliyah Asad in the first half of Tuesday's game at Gladstone.When it came to defense, Gladstone's girls' basketball team rocked Estacada's world with a full-court, trapping press Tuesday night.

Gladstone's defense was solid in the first half, but it bordered on extraordinary in the second half when the Gladiators feasted on Estacada turnovers and pulled away for a 49-23 Tri-Valley Conference home win over the Rangers.

Grace Campbell scored a game-high 22 points and Aaliyah Asad added seven points for the Gladiators (7-12, 3-2 Tri-Valley), who built a 19-10 halftime lead and then opened the second half on a 24-4 run that turned the game into a blowout.

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Estacada's Karlye Nakashimada looks to make a pass while seated on the floor and under pressure from Gladstone's Aaliyah Asad in the first half of Tuesday's game at Gladstone."That was as good as the defense has looked all season," Gladiators coach Glenn Hopkins said. "We've had spurts where it was effective for a couple minutes here and there. But tonight in the second half, it was very effective.

"It led to a lot of easy baskets for the girls in transition and it got the bench super-excited. The bench energy was amazing."

Estacada held its own defensively for the most part. Where the Rangers (5-13, 2-3) ran into trouble was when they had the ball and they struggled to find ways to effectively break Gladstone's relentless on-ball pressure.

"Gladstone's defense was outstanding," Rangers coach Beth Rossos said. "Then their offense came together the second half and our offense didn't. We had nothing.

"First half, we brought the ball up the court and then our problem was once we were in the front court, we were just so dang frazzled, we felt like we had to speed everything up instead of slow down and control ourselves."

Rossos said it was the most frustrated that she has felt as a coach this season.

"From the sideline, it's always hard," she said. "You can say things, you can do things, you can have energy, but unless the players want it, then it doesn't really matter."

Road weary

Gladstone came into Tuesday's game fresh off a 67-30 rout of Crook County in Prineville on Monday -- a game that was originally scheduled for Friday, but was moved up because of potentially hazardous road conditions.

The Gladiators didn't arrive back home until after 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, so Hopkins had some concerns as his team prepared to face Estacada for the first time.

"I thought the first half, we came out really sluggish," Hopkins said. "It didn't seem like we had our legs under us and our outside shots weren't falling like they did against Crook County."

Hopkins said at halftime, assistant Drew Walters helped light a fire under the Gladiators.

"Drew challenged them to go all out and play hard and leave it all out on the floor," Hopkins said. "He said, 'The score is 0-0 and we have to win the second half.' They responded real well to the challenge and I was happy to see that."

After Karlye Nakashimada scored for Estacada to cut Gladstone's lead to 26-13 midway through the third quarter, Campbell reeled off three quick baskets to make it 32-13 with just under two minutes to play in the quarter.

Gladstone's lead was 32-14 when the Gladiators went on an 11-0 run to open the fourth quarter with most of the baskets set up by Estacada turnovers.

"We spent a lot of time the last few days of practice working on defense and making some adjustments and moving some pieces around," Hopkins said. "Very few times did Estacada get somebody that broke deep and wasn't covered. It happened in the first half once, but I think our girls have a better understanding about what we're trying to do and how all the pieces move and rotate, and they're communicating really well out there."

Isabelle Hagel led Estacada with eight points, while M.J. Jennings and Nakashimada added six points each for the Rangers, who lost for the seventh time in nine games.

Playoff chase

Gladstone not only closed out the first half of league play with a win Tuesday, but also took over sole possession of third place -- a crucial spot, considering the league's top three teams are guaranteed at least one more game beyond the regular season.

With five games left, Madras is alone in first at 5-0, while Molalla is a game back, Gladstone is two games back, and Estacada is three games off the pace in fourth.

"Well, we're not where we want to be," Hopkins said. "We would have loved to have gotten at least one out of the Madras and Molalla games. In the second half, both Molalla and Madras are here, so hopefully we can go take care of business."

League action is scheduled to resume Tuesday when Gladstone travels to Corbett, Estacada returns home to play Crook County, and Molalla visits Madras.

"It would be great to continue the momentum that we have right now and not have that down time, but we also have things that need work," Hopkins said. "When you win, it masks a lot of things that need to be fixed, but we've got some practice time to make some improvements before we go to Corbett to start Round Two."

Rossos, too, is cautiously optimistic about what is in store for the Rangers in the second half, including a Feb. 20 rematch with the Gladiators in Estacada.

"I'm still encouraged that we are ahead of where we were at this point last year, so we're improving," Rossos said. "That we even have a shot to be in the play-ins is pretty remarkable. But the fact is we've got to bring it the second half of league play. We know what to expect now."

ESTACADA 3 7 4 9 -- 23

GLADSTONE 8 11 13 17 -- 49

Estacada (23) -- Isabelle Hagel 8, Jennings 6, Nakashimada 6, Peterson 1, Kisar 2, Crombie, New, Gipple, Youngberg.

Gladstone (49) -- Grace Campbell 22, Pope 5, Alvarado 4, Tatom 2, Cronin 2, Asad 7, T. Pinner 1, Holzworth 6, Rowley, Hill, S. Pinner, Clinkscales, Hogan.

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