SPHS girls approach home stretch with win
As far as Valentine's Day and birthday presents go, the St. Paul girls basketball team couldn't have done much better than its 52-30 win over the Crosshill Christian Eagles Friday evening.
With sophomore reserve Ainsley Goughnour sidelined due to injury on her birthday, the rest of her Buckaroo teammates gift-wrapped the team's 23rd victory of the season, racing past the hosting Eagles while staying perfect in league play.
"We executed our offense really well tonight," SPHS coach Dave Matlock said. "We got a lot of good looks. Overall, I think this is the most disciplined we've been on offense this year."
As Senior Night against Falls City loomed on Tuesday, the game against Crosshill Christian was among the final opportunities to fine-tune an offense that Matlock said he would like to be a two-pronged attack.
While St. Paul has the ability to outpace most opponents with sheer athleticism, Matlock knows that the playoffs are a different beast where teams slow down, offenses are limited and games are won in the half court.
"We want to be able to run like crazy, but we also want to be able to really set it up and cram it down somebody's throat if we have to," he said. "With our freelance running game, it's hard to go from that to disciplined. They've struggled with that sometimes, but tonight I thought they did that very well and that's the two-headed monster we want to try to be."
Senior post Isabelle Wyss scored a game-high 21 points, 17 which came in the first half when the Bucks were looking to run up their lead to a comfortable margin. Crosshill kept the game tight in the first quarter, trailing 15-10 after the opening eight minutes.
Wyss responded with a 10-point burst in the second quarter, many of her points via passes from senior teammate Erin Counts. The pair combined for all but two of the Bucks' points in the quarter, allowing St. Paul to head into halftime with a 32-17 lead.
"I thought (Crosshill Christian) played really well in the first half and we didn't dictate quite as much in the first half," Matlock said. "We had a little bit more continuity in that second quarter. We kind of got the separation that we wanted and then we could sub more."
The Bucks saw plenty of time from reserves Mayra Lozano, Abby Gonzalez, Rilynn Saucy, Frankie Lear and Madelyn Nickolous. Goughnour would normally be a part of that second unit, but has been unavailable in February.
"She had a concussion two or three weeks ago," Matlock said. "She's had a really slow recovery after a bad head-to-head at Falls City."
As the game continued, St. Paul's defense continued to tighten and the Bucks eventually grew their lead to a 20-point margin on a field goal from junior Mary Davidson in the third quarter. Davidson finished the game with 10 points, joining Counts (15) in double figures along with Wyss. Freshman Anabelle Davidson added four points and freshman Lear had two.
"We spread the court really well," Matlock said. "Our spacing was extremely good today and that is sometimes the key that we don't always have."
Following Tuesday's game against Falls City (12-11, 6-7 Casco), the No. 2 Buck (23-1, 13-0) await the challenger in Saturday's league championship game played at George Fox University.
And while St. Paul's opponent has yet to be determined, Matlock has no doubt that No. 3 Perrydale (21-3, 12-2) will make it through the league tournament and be waiting for them. The Bucks and Pirates have played twice this season, with St. Paul earning a 35-25 home win in December followed by a 33-15 victory at Perrydale on Jan. 28.
"It will be huge for both teams, because the road for the team that wins that game is so much easier than the road for the team that loses that game," Matlock said.
The league champion will earn a bye to the second round of the state playoffs, while the runner up will host the third place team from the Valley 10 Conference, which currently boasts three top-10 programs in No. 4 Damascus Christian (22-2, 11-1), No. 6 Southwest Christian (20-3, 10-2) and No. 10 Country Christian (16-8, 8-3).
"They're all really tough," Matlock said. "That will be a dog fight just to even get to the next game that gets you to Baker (City)."
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