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St. Helens has few turnovers, scores well in transition as it takes tournament opener

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: STEVE BRANDON - Emelia Paullus (left) of St. Helens starts to bring the ball up the court after a defensive rebound against Gresham.St. Helens' girls basketball team got a good chance to run its half-court offense last Saturday against Gresham, and the Lions took advantage.

After a relatively slow start, St. Helens took control in the second quarter and put the game out of reach in the third quarter.

The Lions finished on top of the Gophers 50-38 in the first game of a four-game, one-day tournament at St. Helens.

The host Lions went on to beat McKay 37-25 in the nightcap for the tourney title.

While junior forward Maddie Holm led the way for St. Helens, as usual, in the Gresham game (18 points), the Lions backed her up with good play throughout their lineup.

Senior forward Kaela Lee scored 11 points and had eight rebounds and five steals.

Senior point guard Emelia Paullus tallied nine points, including a four-point play in the first quarter.

Off the bench, some of the Lions' youth got into the act nicely, as well.

Feisty sophomore backup point guard Maria Reardon came up with, or dove on the floor for, six steals. She also dished out four assists.

Freshman post Autumn Weitzel notched six points with five rebounds and three steals in limited but significant duty.

St. Helens was able to easily shift into half-court mode on offense because Gresham offered no full-court or mid-court defensive pressure.

The Gophers went with box-and-one treatment on Holm, a tactic the Lions were able to figure out well enough to get good shot opportunities for her teammates.

St. Helens spread the court, stationing everyone not named Holm at various points just behind the 3-point line and letting Holm move about freely to contribute from various spots and angles.

"That's the first team that hasn't at least tried to press us," St. Helens coach Michael Fendall said. "It was nice to just bring the ball up and work it around."

St. Helens got plenty of good looks from both 3-point distance and inside the arc. The Lions also rebounded well enough on offense to give themselves extra opportunities.

"Once they start doing the box-and-one, we know we can get the shooters outside good looks," Paullus said. "And we all have the ability to score, so if we don't have Maddie it's going to be OK ... but if we do have Maddie, it's even better."

The lack of pressure helped the Lions keep their turnover count down as well. They finished with only five, well under their goal of 16 or less in each game, Paullus said.

Holm played alternately outside and inside in the Lions' zone defenses, but she was the key defender on Gresham guard Destiny Ogbeama, who got only three points.

The key stretch began at the end of the first quarter, when Holm beat the buzzer with an offensive rebound basket that gave the Lions a 17-14 lead.

Up to that point, Fendall wasn't thrilled with his team's level of intensity. Gresham scored on its first four possessions to lead 7-4.

"We came out really flat," he said. "It was early on a Saturday morning, but making those excuses can get you in trouble."

The Lions went on the attack more to start the second period, though. Holm drove for two transition layups and Lee had a fast-break layup and a 3-pointer to cap an 11-0 run.

"We're really good in transition," Fendall said.

St. Helens won the third quarter 14-1 to all but seal the victory.

Gresham went on to lose its other game in the tournament, falling in overtime to Aloha 42-40. The Gophers dropped to 0-8, while Aloha improved to 2-4.

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