St. Paul girls pick up season-defining wins
St. Paul girls basketball remained undefeated after a trio of wins over some of the top teams in the 1A and 2A classification. The Bucks (13-0, 5-0 Casco League) are ranked No. 1 in the OSAA rankings as of Tuesday.
On Dec. 28, the Bucks won their home tournament with a 50-29 beat down of the 2A Monroe Dragons, who finished as runners-up in the 2A classification last season.
"They jumped on us 5-0 and we got off to a slow start," SPHS coach Dave Matlock said. "We locked in after that, played great defense and ran the court well."
The Monroe game was big, but a Jan. 3 matchup with Joseph loomed large for the Bucks. It was the biggest game of the season to date and St. Paul won 40-32 over the No. 2 team in 1A – cementing its status as the best team in the state at this point.
The game was played at a neutral site – Dufur High School – and saw plenty of fanfare, according to Matlock. St. Paul struggled with Joseph's press in the early going, but a late run gave them a statement victory over what could be a future playoff (or state title game) opponent.
"They are really tough," Matlock said of Joseph. "They are probably the best press team I've seen in 40 years at this level. They have four and five girls on the court that are quick, understand passing angles and are incredibly physical on traps."
Trailing 31-26 with about five minutes to go, the Bucks needed a strong finish in order to beat their foes from eastern Oregon. They got that and more as a 14-1 run propelled them to victory and an undisputed No. 1 ranking.
The tests didn't end with Joseph as St. Paul took on No. 12 Perrydale in its league opener. The Bucks won 41-30 thanks to another solid defensive effort.
"I really believe that the league title in the Casco will come down to us and Perrydale," Matlock said. "I think it will stay that way if we both take care of business, and it was huge to win there because of the environment. We tried to control the tempo and keep the score down."