St. Mary's pulls away late to upset West Linn girls 59-55
The West Linn girls basketball team had St. Mary's right where it wanted it.
The Lions saddled St. Mary's star Bendu Yeaney with her third foul three minutes into the third quarter of their Saturday state playoff game at West Linn High School, then pushed their lead to 10 points moments later.
But Yeaney would not let her team lose.
The Blues senior exploded for 26 second-half points, poured in 40 on the night and carried her team past West Linn 59-55 in the second round of the playoffs. In the process, she also lifted her team into the Class 6A state tournament, set for March 9-11 at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus.
"I'm super excited. We fought so hard to get there," said Yeaney. "We played for each other and we told each other we were going to win this game and we did."
"We were expecting for them to come out hard, but we came out harder," added freshman Marley Johnson, who added 13 points in the win. "We were ready, definitely."
The win lifted No. 25 St. Mary's season record to 13-11 after a fourth-place finish in the Three Rivers League. Ninth-ranked West Linn, meanwhile, saw its season end at 17-9 after a runner-up finish in the 2016-17 TRL race.
"It was a great year," said West Linn junior Lexi Pritchard, who led her team with 23 points in Saturday. "Our seniors played their hearts out and it was just one of those games where it didn't come out our way."
"St. Mary's is a good team and they brought it. They wanted it," added West Linn senior Kennedy Fulcher, who finished with six points in a foul-plagued effort that saw her leave the game for good with 2 minutes, 13 seconds left in the contest. "We wanted it, obviously, but our shots just weren't falling. We had some bad turnovers and we needed to box out, but it wasn't an effort thing."
The Lions appeared to be in control at the outset of Saturday's game, getting seven first-quarter points from Pritchard, a three-pointer from Kennedi Byram and taking an 18-9 edge at the end of the first quarter.
But Yeaney caught fire in the second quarter with nine points, helped her team pull in front at 23-21 on a fast break basket with 2:37 remaining in the half, then settled for a 26-23 deficit at the half.
The Lions kept the pressure on early in the third quarter, too, opening the second half on a 10-3 run that pushed their lead to 36-26 with 4:55 remaining in the stanza. Byram kicked off that stretch with a "three," Pritchard followed with a pull-up jumpshot from the foul line, Pritchard took a Lizzy Herrick pass and drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key, and Daria Ruediger added a left-handed drive for that 10-point edge.
The Blues, however, did not blink. Yeaney scored 11 points in the final 4:33 of the period and Johnson added a "three" of her own as the Blues closed within 43-40 at the end of three quarters. Yeaney's contributions included a pair of foul shots, a pull-up jumper on the break, a steal and breakaway hoop, a basket in the key and a three-point play.
The Blues opened the fourth with a Yeaney fast break basket and another Johnson "three" to push ahead 45-43 with 5:32 left to play. Byram tied the game again at 45-45 when she rebounded a Brooke Landis miss and scored with 4:57 left on the clock, but St. Mary's took over from there.
Yeaney responded with six points in 2:29, getting a three-point play, a fast break basket after grabbing a rebound, and a putback in the air. Along with Grace Fallon's foul shot with 2:13 left to play, St. Mary's pushed its lead to 53-47.
West Linn wasn't done, however. Pritchard hit two free throws on the ensuing possession, knocked down a jumpshot from the foul line on her team's next trip, then added one of two free throws. And finally, Lizzy Herrick rebounded an Adina Mollusky miss and set up Byram for a "three" that cut the Lions' deficit to 56-55 with 58 seconds left to play.
But West Linn couldn't finish the deal from there. Byram missed a layin, the Lions turned the ball over on their next possession and Pritchard and Byram both came up short on three-point shots at the end of the game, while St. Mary's pulled away with another Fallon free throw and two more by Yeaney to put the game on ice.
"No one thought we were going to beat Sheldon on Wednesday, and I know people didn't really think we were going to be West Linn today, so that just gave us more motivation to come out and shock the state," Yeaney said.
"We were talking about just bringing it all right now," Johnson said. "Everything we've got, like it's the last game we might ever play."
For their part, West Linn left disappointed but proud of its season and grateful for the friendships and memories it had created this year.
"I wouldn't trade this team for any other team, even if I knew what the outcome was at the end of the year," Pritchard said. "I still wouldn't change anything in this season."
"I have some of my best friends on the team so that's kind of cool," Fulcher added. "And I'm going to remember all the time we spent together."