St. Helens boys hoops beats Indians, wins first game of the year
All night long the Scappoose student section chirped at the St. Helens boys' basketball team, cat-called them, mocked their outside shots, laughed at their bricks, whooped at the Indians' delight.
At a certain crucial juncture in the fourth quarter, with the Columbia County rivalry hanging in the balance, St. Helens senior Joe Rea had heard enough of Scappoose's hijinks. With his team protecting a narrow 27-25 lead, Rea ripped a right wing three-pointer through the net, trotted down the sideline and gave the Indian patrons an emotionless, long stare with a thunderous two-handed clap directed to the mob attached. Then, on the next trip down, the Lion wing drove left, right around Scappoose's defense, finished at the rim and got fouled in the process.
Rea's old-fashioned and-one gave St. Helens a suddenly comfortable 33-25 lead with 3:13 to go. And while Scappoose never closed up shop, Rea's six-point spree was the difference maker as St. Helens beat Scappoose 37-28 at Scappoose High School on Jan. 17.
"Hitting a big three like that, seeing them and silencing the crowd…that feeling is a rush," Rea said. "(Scappoose) talked a lot and we knew they were going to talk. They've been saying stuff for the past week. But our coach (Jake Ramiskey) said to stand in and don't say anything back and then after the game, we could let them hear it a little bit. But we had to get the win first. "
"As long as we do what we do, we'll win every time," St. Helens senior point guard Canon Beisley said. "We stayed focused, kept it simple handling the pressure and didn't make dumb turnovers. We stayed strong with the ball."
Rea credited his assistant coaches Scott Spencer and Drake Dow for dousing gasoline on his competitive fire come the second half. The senior wing scored 18 second half points, 10 in the fourth quarter. Be it spinning into the lane and finishing high degree of difficulty layups, getting to the free throw line or rising and burying jumpers, the senior found an equilibrium between zeal and zen, getting hyped off the crowd's energy but not too high.
"They told me I had to go play and have fun," Rea said. "They told me I was anxious coming into a big rivalry game, but I was doing things right. I just had to calm down, get to my spots where I could help myself and the team out. I got it done, got the shots to fall."
Scappoose entered the game on a high. Winners of three of their last four games, the Indians upset Hillsboro in their Northwest Oregon Conference opener. The Indians opened the Lion contest with similar momentum, racing out to a 9-4 lead. Scappoose, one of the smallest schools in the Class 5A classification, is relishing the role of supposed underdog.
"I really like the progress of our team," Scappoose head coach Matt Humphreys said. "The players are developing and they're starting to understand how we have to prepare and what we have to do to try and win."
But in the second quarter, things slowed to a crawl. St. Helens drained three and a half minutes off the clock on its opening offensive possession, protecting the ball, looking for the utmost perfect shot. In a low possession, defensive-dominated cross-county rivalry contest, the Lions erased a five-point first quarter deficit with stops. St. Helens switched on the perimeter, aggressively attacked the passing lanes, forced turnovers and errant misses. St. Helens sophomore Trevor Fitzgerald scored in transition off a takeaway as the Lions limited Scappoose to three second quarter points and just a single field goal. At the half, St. Helens led 13-12.
"It's all about communication and knowing the rotations," Rea said.
"Our offense comes from our defense," Beisley said. "It's defense every day in practice. We come out here in the games and it's nothing new. We just stick to our plan and execute it."
St. Helens' slow down seemed to have a trickle-down effect on the Indian offense. Scappoose was able to create the sorts of open shots it practices daily, especially from beyond the three-point line. Still, the Indians made it a game despite the shooting struggles. Junior Dominic Lite helped pull the lid off the Scappoose hoop with a fourth quarter three. Kyle Negelspach, battling a sore shooting wrist, came up with a big three-pointer and Logan Johnson hammered home a putback to cut St. Helens' lead to 27-25 in the fourth. Yet, the Indians couldn't consistently cash in over the final three quarters, making six field goals in the final 24 minutes. Scappoose pulled within one or two points of St. Helens on four different occasions but never regained the lead.
"I told the boys the shots were going to start falling, we just tried to stay positive," Humphreys said. "Against Hillsboro, we hit everything we threw up. Tonight, was the complete opposite. It was the tale of two games. But if we lose because we don't knock shots, I'm not going to dwell on it. We played really hard on the defensive end. I'll never be concerned about giving up 37 points in a game."
Beisley said he's "not much of a three-point shooter", so he gets his offense going to the rack, attracting help and kicking the ball or drawing fouls inside. In fact, 18 of St. Helens' 37 points came from the free throw line. Beisley scored six second quarter points, all from the free throw line, as he got to his left hand and put pressure on the Indian defense off the dribble. He finished with four more free throws in the fourth.
After Rea's one-man rampage late in the fourth, Negelspach hopped into the key for a slick left-handed layup to pull the Indians within 33-27. Then Griffin Elliott hit one of two free throws to make it 33-28 with 1:14 left in the fourth. But Beisley and Rae were clutch down the stretch, making four of six at the charity stripe as Scappoose's cold shooting continued.
Not only did the Lions win their first game of the year, but they did so by beating an Indian team that grew up playing with them back in their younger days. Beisley said Scappoose's starting lineup was on a travel squad with the Lions but decided to take their talents south when it came to selecting high schools.
"I don't know if that was the best decision," Rea said with a smile. "It was just a battle of who was going to be the best, who was going to take it home. We scouted them, they scouted us. We knew what they were going to do. They knew what we were going to do."
St. Helens' preseason was riddled with seven games that were lost by six points or less. The defense has been there since day one. It's kept the Lions competitive in eight of their 11 games overall. But against Scappoose, St. Helens struck a steadiness on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
"This is a turning point in our season," Beisley said. "We played really well against Wilsonville. They're the best team in the state and we held them. I think it's going to start clicking."
"It's only up from here," Rea said.
Rea finished with a game-high 20 points. Beisley chipped in 12 for the Lions. Negelspach scored a team-high 13 for the Indians. Johnson added six points and five rebounds. Scappoose is now 4-10 overall and 1-2 in NWOC. The Indians host Wilsonville on Friday for a 5:30 p.m. tip and travel to La Salle on Jan. 28 for a 7:15 start. Scappoose lost 84-47 at Milwaukie. The Lions are now 1-12 overall and 1-1 in league after losing 72-57 at Parkrose. St. Helens travels to Hillsboro on Friday for a 7:15 tip, then hosts Putnam on Tuesday.
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