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Blazers' tournament at Rose Quarter again provides tough summer competition

COURTESY PHOTO: ROB MCDOLE - The Lady Lions of St. Helens celebrate after placing sixth in their division of the Trail Blazers-sponsored Rip City 3 on 3 basketball tournament last month at the Rose Quarter. From left: Mia Saalfeld, Maisy McDole, Caitlin Keefe and Audrey Kidd.The Bombshells or Lady Lions, by either name, have been making their mark in summer club girls basketball for several years.

And one of the highlights for the group of St. Helens-area girls came last month at the Rose Quarter, adjacent to the Moda Center that is home for the Portland Trail Blazers.

There, a foursome of St. Helens hoopsters — 13-year-olds Mia Saalfeld, Maisy McDole, Caitlin Keefe and Audrey Kidd — earned sixth place in the 13-19 age group division of the annual Rip City 3 on 3 tournament, sponsored by the Blazers.

The girls entered the tourney as the Lady Lions, the most-recent name for their club team, which began about a half-dozen years ago as the Bombshells.

"Years ago, one of our first tournaments was in Richland, Washington, where they call themselves the Bombers," explained coach Rob McDole, father of Maisy. "The girls really loved that name, so we said, 'How about we call ourselves the Bombshells?'"

The switch to Lady Lions came a year or two ago.

"We decided that since we're kind of representing St. Helens, we'd switch over," McDole said. "We were getting new uniforms, so the girls thought that was a nice idea and the time to do it."

The girls lost in the Rip City 3 on 3 tourney to a team from Salem that consisted of 14- and 15-year-olds and went on to win their age division championship.

"They were a little bigger than us, a little more experienced than us," McDole said. "We went into it with this approach: 'Do we look at that as a negative or a positive? Hopefully it makes us a little better.'"

The sixth-place finish, while noteworthy, was bittersweet, because Kidd will be moving to Florida.

"She's been part of the core of this team for several years," Rob McDole said.

The St. Helens girls who competed at the Rose Quarter are heading into the eighth grade. Saalfeld attends Sauvie Island (Middle) School, but all of them — except for Kidd — are likely to wind up at St. Helens High.

They also have played years of recreational and middle school basketball, "but how you get better growing up is in tournament ball," McDole said, and that's why the club was formed for them to travel and test their skills against top teams from other areas.

"The parents bonded, and we just kept it going," McDole said.

Some girls who were on the team moved on to other things or moved away, he said, but about a half-dozen players have been mainstays over the years.

"Molly is our tallest girl and our post player, but ironically she's a year younger but has always played up with us," McDole said. "She does a lot of softball, too, and is very good in softball."

The Rip City 3-on-3 tournament limited each team to four members, but that worked out reasonably well because some girls were also heavily involved in softball this summer, McDole said.

He hopes the Lady Lions can have one more go-round before they turn to high school basketball. The next season would start up again for club ball in October (after middle school volleyball), and if all goes well the Lady Lions will return next summer for the Blazers' 2020 3-on-3 event.

"The girls really enjoy it," McDole said, "and there's good competition."

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