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The inside-outside duo combine for 14 fourth quarter points to lead Lions to victory

PMG PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - St. Helens junior post Jean Gartman fights through Scappoose wings Allison Wills and Molly Hagen.

When it came to crunch time in the cross Columbia County girls' basketball feud, St. Helens looked to its stars to carry them down the homestretch.

Scappoose was pesky and sticky in the Lions' hip pocket all night long. Buoyed by an industrious grit on the offensive glass and a trio of budding perimeter stars in Dylan Mann, Allison and Alivia Wills, the Indians refused to go away.

With five minutes left in the fourth, the Willis sisters swished back to back jumpers to bring Scappoose within 30-29. But Maddie Holm and Jean Gartman refused to let St. Helens suffer. The inside-outside duo combined for all 14 of St. Helens' fourth quarter points and helped shut out Scappoose over the final five minutes of action to win the seven-mile clash 42-29 on PMG PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Scappoose star freshman Dylan Mann puts home a floater in the first half against St. Helens. Jan. 17 at Scappoose High School.

There's a sense that La Salle and Wilsonville essentially have the top spots in the Northwest Oregon Conference wrapped up. But those final two automatic Class 5A postseason bids are completely up for grabs. Both Scappoose and St. Helens figure to be firmly in that six-team mix of NWOC contenders. So, to go on the road, in front of a packed house, overcome a shaky first half in which Holm missed much of due to foul trouble and still win was a great sign for the Lions.

"Anytime we're playing anybody other than (La Salle and Wilsonville), it's going to be a scrap fest," St. Helens head coach Michael Fendall said. "That's what it was tonight. It was kind of a grinder, but I'm proud of how (the Lions) stepped up. It was fun. It was a tough first half, but our second half was something to build upon for sure."

The Indians are most definitely on the right path toward short term and long-term gains. They've already doubled last year's win total from two to four victories, have talented pieces like Mann and the Wills in place not to mention senior standout Gaby Dague who was out against St. Helens due to injury. The Wills sisters combined for 13 points. Scappoose also received key hoops from Grace Negelspach.

"Our progress has been absolutely moving forward in all aspects: our ability to press break, our defensive rotations, our offensive looks are becoming more attack mentality," Scappoose head coach Sarah Mann said. "I'm excited. They're super bummed right now, but they're going to shake it off. We want to make a run for the playoffs, and I think we have a really great shot at that. We have to keep our eye on the big picture. You don't have to be 13-0 to make that happen. We have to keep it in perspective."

PMG PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - St. Helens star Maddie Holm took over the fourth quarter on both ends of the floor against Scappoose. Scappoose led at one point in every quarter. They gobbled up 18 offensive rebounds and lived on the glass.

"They definitely get after it and scrap," Sarah Mann said. "We just work to have a competitive culture in practice, and I think that's been translating over to the games."

Scappoose started three freshmen with Dylan Mann, Adi Stoddard and Jaedyn Miller against St. Helens, which as Sarah Mann said was a little "unconventional and edgy". But Dylan Mann is a first-team all-league player in the making, showcasing a superseding game that belies her youth. All four of Mann's field goals were different. She banked home a floater, crashed the boards for a putback, caught a post feed on the right block, wheeled inside and lifted a teardrop over the Lion defense. She also made four three throws and doled out three assists, two of which were in transition, fighting through heavy traffic. Miller had a first quarter jump hook and Stoddard chipped in on the boards and at the charity stripe. Scappoose has depth in the freshmen and sophomore classes and has relied upon youth throughout the year.

"Our freshmen have really good confidence in themselves and I think their team sees that," Sarah Mann said. "It helps us settle and find that poise. We executed our game plan. We missed a couple of put-backs. If we could've got somebody hot from the perimeter that would've been a game-changer. But we have to respond and get back on track."

PMG PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Scappoose point guard Maddie Templin applies pressure to a St. Helens guard last week. Sarah Mann said Scappoose's chief goals were to bottle up Holm and get out to St. Helens' shooters on the outside. It helped greatly that Holm picked up her third with 1:23 to go in the first quarter and was resigned to a cheerleader from the sideline the rest of the half. At that point, the game was knotted up at 10-10. With Holm saddled to the bench with foul trouble, Scappoose thought it could grab the lead, extend it to double figures by the half and ride the wave over the final 16 minutes. The Indians did in fact lead by four after Alivia Wills made a left-wing three. But Hartman scored four points and dished out an assist to Maria Reardon to help St. Helens stay attached and ultimately tied the game 17-17 at the half. Unfortunately for the Indians, a golden opportunity slipped through their fingers.

"That was probably our chance to break away and we just weren't able to pull it off," Mann said. "We started to attack their zone a little bit and (St. Helens) had to pull back a little bit."

Credit Holm and company for weathering the storm. She let off the aggression gas, pulled back a little and let her teammates carry the weight. To start the fourth, Holm drove right, spun left to leave a defender in the dust, squared up and nailed a sweet 15-foot jumper to give St. Helens a 30-25 with 6:45 to go. The Wills' consecutive hoops closed the gap to one. It felt like a fourth back-and-forth battle was in the works. But then Reardon deflected a pass, Holm ran it down and put home a layup on the other end. Hartman put down a two power dribble jump hook, then she blocked a Dylan Mann at the other end.

"Jean is a beast when she plays physical," Fendall said. "We're trying to get to her play aggressive instead of fading away, fading to the side. We want her going into people and she did on those last two shots."

Hartman finished with 11 points, which Sarah Mann was the key to the win for the Lions.

"(Gartman) got hot," Mann said. "She's a great player and they use her well. She made a couple of shots in the fourth quarter that my money is on her not hitting every time. That's a difference-maker. But that's basketball. You're going to get hot sometimes."

Subsequently, Holm went hard to the hole and finished at the rim to give St. Helens its largest lead at 36-29 with 1:43 left. Hartman missed a contested two, but Holm was there to clean up the mess and banked home the offensive board to make it 38-29. Then the combo made five of six at the free throw line combined to salt the contest away. Holm adjusted her game to the needs of the team, sacrificing her ball-hawking ways for a more containment style defense. It worked wonders as Holm didn't pick up another foul the rest of the way.

PMG PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Scappoose post Lily Mask tries to contest a Jean Hartman paint touch last week. "I just begged (Holm) basically," Fendall said with a smile. "She got that sweat going, got into a rhythm and slowed down a little bit also. She got to her spots and it ended up working out in the end."

Maybe more impressive was St. Helens' dedication to the defensive end. The Lions closed out on the Willis sisters, tried to make Mann uncomfortable with extra help off the ball and let Hartman roam the middle of the 2-3 zone. Scappoose, after seemingly finding an offensive groove, couldn't get any shots to drop and was stymied over the final five minutes.

"That's really impressive for us," Fendall said. "We played a little bit more aggressive in our zone. Earlier we were kind of inviting shots and (Scappoose) was making shots. We kind of slid out there and forced them into some tougher stuff and got a few turnovers."

St. Helens is now 10-2 overall and 2-1 in the Northwest Oregon Conference after beating Scappoose and backing it with a 66-45 beatdown of Parkrose. The Lions travel to Hillsboro on Friday for a 5:45 tip with the Spartans. Scappoose hosts league elites Wilsonville and La Salle on Friday and Jan. 28. Both games will tip at 7 p.m. The Indians also play Parkrose at home on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m.

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