St. Helens ends girls basketball skid
Playing probably its most complete game so far this season, the St. Helens girls basketball team rolled to victory on Tuesday in the first of four consecutive home games.
The Lions didn't give visiting Parkrose any chance at a breakthrough win, building a 40-point lead and getting 40 points from Maddie Holm on the way to a 55-30 victory at St. Helens High School.
The win ended a losing string of four games, three of them competitive, that included a 35-34 loss on Feb. 2 at Putnam.
St. Helens is 8-12 for the season and 4-6 in Northwest Oregon Conference play. The Lions are tied with Putnam for fifth place and two games ahead of seventh-place Sandy with four games remaining.
The top six NWOC teams make the Class 5A state playoffs, a primary goal for this St. Helens team. One more win might be enough to get there.
The Lions' next two home games will provide an opportunity to move up in the standings. On Tuesday, they will play host to fourth-place Milwaukie (9-11 overall, 5-5 in NWOC play). On Feb. 16, the Lions host seventh-place Sandy (5-15 overall, 2-8 in NWOC play) at St. Helens.
Coach Brittaney Niebergall hopes her Lions can build on their strong showing against Parkrose.
"We've really been challenging the girls to play for 32 minutes. I think tonight was the first time we achieved that," Niebergall said after the 25-point win over the Broncos (0-14 overall, 0-10 in NWOC play).
Holm, the Lions' top scorer, needed less than three quarters to put away Parkrose. The 5-foot-10 sophomore scored her 40 points by the middle of the third quarter and did not play the last 12 minutes. She also had seven rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot.
"She's a fantastic player, but we have a lot of supporting efforts that make it possible for her to have those big nights," Niebergall said.
"Tonight was a great game. We had contributions from everyone. It was really a good night for us."
St. Helens senior guard Myranda Northrup added eight points, four rebounds and four steals against Parkrose, while senior Irene Omboke and junior Kaela Lee each scored a first-half basket as the Lions hustled to a 24-point halftime lead.
Junior guard Madi Flores made a 3-pointer in the second half.
An 18-2 surge in the second quarter — including 14 consecutive St. Helens points from Holm — ended any suspense about the outcome.
Through three quarters, the Lions made 15 steals and forced the Broncos into 19 turnovers. With a healthy lead, younger players on a St. Helens roster that includes seven freshmen had the opportunity to play.
After watching her team play six of its first nine league games on the road, Niebergall is looking forward to this stretch of home games.
"It's always nice to play at home and to have the home crowd and the cheerleaders, the band. It really makes for the ultimate high school experience," she said. "Being on the home court really makes a difference, and it'll be good for us going down the stretch here to be able to play at home."
Putnam hangs on
The Lions could not overcome their first-half shooting woes in their one-point loss on Feb. 2 at Putnam.
St. Helens rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to briefly lead with about two minutes left in the game, but came up short.
Holm scored 16 of her game-high 22 points in the second half. Lee made two 3-pointers in the second half.
St. Helens made only three baskets in the first half and trailed 17-9 at halftime. Holm had nine points in the third quarter to close the gap to one point entering the final period.
"The first half, we did not shoot very well and we did not come out with the intensity that we planned on having," Niebergall said. "In the second half, we really did a good job of coming back and fighting and fighting.
"We just came back a little bit too late in the game and had some critical possessions in the last two minutes that caused it to go the other way."