The West Linn girls basketball team has been on a roll in recent years.
Two years ago, the Lions soared to third place in the Class 6A state tournament — the team's best finish since the mid 1980s.
Last year, West Linn battled its way back to state and finished sixth.
But this year's Lions are sailing in uncharted territory.
West Linn came through to beat Oregon City 52-49 in overtime at Oregon City High School on Friday, Feb. 21, and in the process, secured a share of the Three Rivers League title for the first time in at least 14 years, and likely much longer than that.
"I think it's our grit that got us through the game," said West Linn junior point guard Cami Fulcher, who scored 16 points (on 4 of 7 shooting from the field with two 3-pointers and a 6 of 7 day at the foul line), along with three rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. "I don't think it was the most skill or whatever — it was just heart that got us the win."
"It was a really tough game, but I'm proud we came out and won," said West Linn junior post Aaronette Vonleh, who scored a game-high 22 points (on 10 of 15 shooting from the field and a 2 of 4 day at the foul line), along with nine rebounds, two steals, two blocks and one assist. "It was just nerve-racking trying to figure out what was going to happen next, but it was fun for it to be a close game again."
"It was our goal come here and win because they won at our house on a stupid call so it was good," added West Linn sophomore Olivia McVicker, who scored seven points (on 3 of 3 shooting from the field with one "three"), along with three steals, two assists and two rebounds.
With the win — the third-ranked Lions' seventh straight since losing to Oregon City back on Jan. 28 — West Linn improved to 11-1 in the TRL and 17-5 overall. The fifth-ranked Pioneers, meanwhile, saw their seven-game winning streak snapped and fell to 9-3 in TRL play and 17-5 overall, but still hold a two-game edge over third-place Tualatin and St. Mary's.
"They're a good team. I'm proud to know we can still compete with them," said Oregon City senior guard Katie Kathan, who led her team with 15 points (on 4 of 7 shooting from the field and a 7 of 9 day at the foul line), along with four assists, three rebounds and one assist. "I think we did everything we could."
"I think we played great as a team," added Oregon City junior guard Mia Martineau, who finished with 13 points (on 5 of 9 shooting from the field including three 3-pointers), along with two rebounds, one assist and one steal. "We came out there very focused and ready to go, we played great defense and we finished on offense quite a bit. That was like a playoff game and it definitely prepares us."
While West Linn's win was absolutely rewarding, there was absolutely nothing easy about it. The Pioneers started fast behind Martineau's six first-quarter points and another four from junior Emmaly Welch, while their defense held the Lions to just 4 of 15 shooting from the field and took a 15-10 lead into the second quarter.
West Linn rallied there, thanks to five points (including a "three") from McVicker and four each by junior Audrey Roden and Vonleh to tie the game 23-23 on a Roden drive with 1 minute, 1 second remaining in the first half.
But Kathan came through with four points — including a three-point play — in the final 55 seconds to give the Pioneers a 27-23 edge at the break.
After the Lions closed within 27-25 on two Fulcher foul shots at the start of the third quarter, the Pioneers put together a 10-2 run that extended their edge to 37-27 midway through the period.
While West Linn went just 1 of 5 from the field in that stretch, Oregon City saw Martineau bury a 3-pointer from the right wing, Welch hit a 15-foot jumpshot and a drive, and Martineau drilled another "three" off a Kathan pass for that 10-point lead with 4:28 remaining in the period.
But the Lions did not fold. Instead, they answered with 14-3 run over a span of 7:36 in the third and fourth quarters. Vonleh hit 3 of 4 shots and scored six points in that run, Fulcher added two foul shots and a 3-pointer, and McVicker knocked down a jumpshot in the key, with Vonleh's putback giving West Linn a 41-40 lead with 4:25 remaining in regulation.
Kathan hit a pair of foul shots and senior teammate Tyra Bradford a "three" in the final 2:30 of the period to offset two more Vonleh hoops and force overtime at 45-45.
The Lions held the upper hand in the extra period, however, getting a driving hoop by Fulcher, a Vonleh hoop off a lob from Fulcher, one Roden free throw and two more foul shots by Fulcher with 23 seconds left to play.
The Pioneers tried to stay close with a Martineau foul shot and a "three" by sophomore Anya Remsburg, but Oregon City made a turnover on its next-to-last possession, then saw Bradford and Martineau both miss 3-point shots on the game's final possession.
Fulcher, who scored 13 of her 16 points in the second half and overtime, played a key role in the win.
"It's kind of my role as a captain and my team did an awesome job of just following me and letting me lead them," Fulcher said. "We just built off each other's energy so it was super fun. Obviously, a part of me was a little nervous, but I could just feel the energy. I could just feel our team and we were not going to lose."
"Cami really put us on her shoulders and led the way," McVicker said.
On their end of the court, the Pioneers left proud of their effort and ready for the big games ahead.
"We will definitely finish strong and get to the (state) tournament," Martineau said.
Roden and McVicker added seven points each for West Linn, while Welch finished with 10 for Oregon City, hitting 4 of 11 shots from the field and both her foul shots, along with 10 rebounds and one assist.
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