Lions go through their paces
The new era in St. Helens basketball might not have gotten off with a bang Wednesday night, but it got off with some bumps and bruises administered and some lessons learned.
The host Lions lost to Canby 25-13 and then to Benson 36-25 in two 12-minute jamboree quarters — but the home team left a mark, both with scrappy way and in how it battled back to almost take the lead against Benson.
First-year Lions coach Zach Waldher said he was pleased with one stat in particular.
"We took six charges tonight. When's the last time you've seen a St. Helens team do that?" he said. "Overall, I'm proud of my guys. I was very impressed with our effort."
The Lions struggled on offense and in rebounding against Canby, which beat Benson 28-18 in the first varsity session. St. Helens was 5 of 18 from the field.
"First game, we were just tight, the jitters were there," Waldher said.
Benson presented a different challenge. The Portland Interscholastic League team pressed full-court the entire 12 minutes and used its quickness and length to be disruptive. St. Helens had 15 turnovers, including 10 against the Tech press.
"We just weren't ready for it tonight," Waldher said. "But we will be. The guys are buying in to what we want to do."
St. Helens gave Benson a bit of its own medicine, pressing some itself and attacking on offense and doubling its point total from the 12-minute run with Canby.
"We want to get up and down, press and do different things," Waldher said.
Benson led by as many as 11 points and was in front 22-12 when the Lions went on a 9-0 run. Subsequent turnovers enabled the Techmen to hold on.
Chris Beatty made 7 of 8 free throws and scored nine points for St. Helens versus Benson, and Gavin Knoke sank two 3-pointers and finished with eight points.
Beatty, a 6-4 senior, had three assists against Canby. Knoke, a 6-2 junior, was 2 of 3 from beyond the arc in that one to lead the team with six points.
The Lions are a bit undersized, and they return no starters or players with a lot of varsity minutes. Freshman Trevor Fitzgerald, a 5-11 guard, was among the starters. But Waldher said he expects 6-5 senior Parker Miller and others to do the work inside and believes the Lions can be a good defensive team.
"Our defense is going to be our backbone. It will improve the more we start understanding our rotations," he said.
St. Helens' first game will be a huge challenge. The Lions will go to Silverton on Saturday for a 7:15 p.m. tip-off. Silverton was ranked No. 1 in Class 5A by the Oregon School Activities Association going into the playoffs last season. The Foxes lost by two points to Churchill in the state quarterfinals, but went on to win the consolation title, finishing 25-2.