Big finish? Still possible for St. Helens
A big finish in the final minutes eluded St. Helens at Parkrose on Tuesday.
But a big finish in their final regular-season games is still the goal for the Lions as they aim for a good spot in the boys basketball state playoffs.
"We're not done yet," senior guard Trenton Minich said after the Broncos used a late 7-0 burst to edge St. Helens, 77-72.
The Lions are still fourth in the Northwest Oregon Conference. They're 5-5 in league, 11-9 overall.
They'll return to the court on Tuesday, visiting Milwaukie at 7:15 p.m.
St. Helens will play Feb. 16 at home against Sandy, Feb. 20 at La Salle Prep and Feb. 23 at home versus first-place Wilsonville.
The Lions are just ahead of Putnam and Sandy, who are tied for fifth in the NWOC at 3-7.
If the Lions hold on to fourth place, they would get a Class 5A home play-in game on Feb. 28 against the third-place team from the Columbia River Conference, probably The Dalles, Hermiston or Hood River Valley.
"We've got good teams to beat, but we think we can beat them," Minich said. "We'll go in strong and try to set the bar high and go meet it."
Broncos hard to tame
St. Helens came into Tuesday's Parkrose game having won two in a row — 76-44 against Hillsboro and 72-62 last Friday over Putnam. The Broncos, tied with La Salle Prep for second in the NWOC at 8-2, were out to avenge a 76-70 loss at the Lions on Jan. 12.
The rematch turned out to be like a lot of NBA games — back and forth before coming down to the final minutes.
Minich made two free throws with 3:37 remaining for a 67-67 tie. St. Helens' 6-7 senior forward, Owen Wolfe, then stole a Parkrose pass.
But the Lions' shooting then deserted them down the stretch. They went 0 for 7 from the field (four misses from close range) during a 2:15 span that started with three minutes to go. The dry spell left them trailing, 74-67.
A 3-pointer by senior point guard Drake Dow, with 36 seconds remaining, made the score 74-70.
After the Broncos threw the ball away on an inbound pass, St. Helens had possession in the front court with 32 seconds on the clock. The Lions missed from 12 feet, however, and had to foul.
Sophomore guard Joe Rea scored with 16 seconds left to bring the Lions to within 75-72, but Damontae' Burns of Parkrose converted a pair of free throws to thwart a comeback.
After the loss, the Lions said the key factors were their decision-making on offense and periods of impatience with the ball against a Parkrose team that plays with an open throttle from start to finish.
"Our poor decisions at the offensive end led to Parkrose scoring in transition," St. Helens coach Jordan Massinger said. "And we could not buy a basket. We missed countless layups from two feet away, and they (the Broncos) made some crazy shots, some open shots. Hats off to them. They worked so hard.
"They got us in position to make mistakes, and they capitalized. You've got to give it to those guys. They deserved to win."
Four Lions scored in double figures: 6-6 senior forward Jacob Falk had 20 points, Minich 18, Rea 14 and Wolfe 13.
The workhorse Wolfe grabbed 20 rebounds. Also banging inside, Falk collected 10.
Wolfe made all five of his first-half field-goal attempts, not counting a desperation, half-court heave at the buzzer. He finished 6 of 7 on 2-pointers for the game and had both of his team's steals.
"Owen is the unsung heart and soul of our team," Massinger said. "He plays hard every night, plays great defense."
Minich was 7 of 8 from the free-throw line.
The 5-8 Dow, playing on a banged-up ankle, had just the one late 3-pointer on 13 field-goal attempts, seven from beyond the arc.
"Drake's got one foot — he's playing as hard as he can," Massinger said. "He's like Owen, the heart and soul of the team."
St. Helens came out hot, making 6 of its first seven shots for a 15-6 lead after three minutes.
"Coach wanted us to come out hot, because we've been slacking off at the beginning of quarters and getting behind," Minich said. "He was emphasizing that we want to come out strong, especially against Parkrose, since they play so well and would have some fire at their house and with everyone supporting them."
At the half, the Lions led, 42-34. Massinger liked what he was seeing from his team.
"In the first half, we were more with our game plan, and doing what we should have been doing," he said.
The Broncos began to chip away after the break, though, and things started to slip away for the Lions.
"We had really poor shot selection," Massinger said. "I thought we went away from getting the ball to Jake and Owen, and that really hurt us.
"And by then they (the Broncos) were playing confident and free — they had their crowd backing them up."
The Broncos were still relying on their mix of 3-point attempts and quick drives to the basket, only now they were finding more success on the attack.
"It's like a Streetball game, playing against them," Minich said. "They don't have a big team, so they shoot a lot of 3's and get out and run and use the skills they've developed. They probably play all the time at the park. They've grown up playing that way. So they want to take the first step and go by their man, or jack up 3's."
The Lions got lulled into that kind of game at times.
"They sped us up," Minich said. "We want to run fast, but not as fast as they go. We don't want to start jacking up shots. We want to make sure we get high-percentage shots and work the ball into the post and inside-out.
"They were affecting us, but it was also our IQ — we just fell apart with our shot selection."
The Broncos got their first lead at 47-46 with 3:44 left in the third quarter.
The lead changed hands six times after that, and in the fourth quarter the teams were tied at 58, 63, 65 and 67.
Parkrose, which was 7 of 13 from the foul line in the first three quarters, sank 9 of 12 foul shots in the final 5:35 to help put the game away.
Seniors Justin Tran and Leyson Farmer scored 22 and 19 points, respectively, for the Broncos (9-10 overall).
Lapses in focus
The Lions ended the night 25 of 66 (37.9 percent) from the field, including 8 of 26 (30.8 percent) on 3-pointers. They were 0 of 5 on 3's in the third quarter, when Parkrose roared from behind.
"We had lapses in our focus. We didn't do what we should have with the ball," Wolfe said. "That was the biggest problem.
"Once we get into our sets, we need to slow down and be more patient than we were in our half-court offense.
"We've got two tall guys out there, and they had one. They just outworked us. It came down to poor shots and not finishing around the rim."
Parkrose also got numerous offensive rebounds, mostly off missed 3's, while St. Helens' first offensive rebound didn't come until early in the second quarter.
"They were getting the second-chance baskets, and we weren't," Massinger said.
Wolfe pointed to a number of long rebounds off missed 3's that the Broncos were able to corral.
"Sometimes we were boxing out and the rebound bounces 20 feet to a guard. Some of that just happens," Wolfe said. "We've got to box out better, but that wasn't our biggest problem."
Neither was Parkrose's advantage in depth.
"We've got a six- or seven-man rotation, and that shouldn't matter," Wolfe said, of the Broncos' ability to substitute more freely than the Lions. "We're all in good enough shape to get up and down the court a full game and play good defense and offense for a full game."