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Lions get game-tying hoop from Rea in the fourth, game-winner from Waite in OT

PMG FILE PHOTO - St. Helens senior Joe Rea made the game-tying three-pointer and had the game-winning assist against Scappoose.

When it came to finishing teams off in the fourth quarter, it felt like the St. Helens' boys' basketball was damn near cursed.

Ten of the Lions' first 12 losses occurred by 10 points or less. Eight of those losses were by six points or less. The Lions played their hearts out, battled full bore, but couldn't close. Their 2-17 record could not have been a worse representation of this team. St. Helens deserved better. But to turn its fortunes and finish this year on fire, the Lions had to lean on one another. After a rare blowout loss to Wilsonville on the road, head coach Jake Ramiskey asked his team what they wanted this season to look like. They could tuck tail, point to their competitive schedule for positivity and cruise into the offseason no harm no foul. Or, they could beat Scappoose again, win four of their last five games and make a run at the Class 5A playoffs.

In the Wilsonville locker room, before getting back on the bus, St. Helens made a pact to push together down the homestretch. The Lions first took down Scappoose, 42-41, in overtime at St. Helens High School on Feb. 18, lost to Putnam but then beat Hillsboro 61-50 at home on Feb. 18.

PMG FILE PHOTO - St. Helens post Neil Wolfe had a big day on the glass for the Lionsa and helped set up the game-tying basket. "We always tell the guys to stay together no matter what happens in the game, keep playing hard and it'll finally work out," Ramiskey said. "That's what they've done. They continue to play for each other. When they needed to play as a unit, they played as a unit. We put it all together and found a way to win in a crazy atmosphere (against Scappoose). It's getting more intense and guys are really trying to buy into what we're doing."

St. Helens senior Joe Rea, who flummoxed the Indians in the first matchup, hit a double-clutch contested three-pointer to send it to overtime. And in overtime, Lion senior Austin Waite scored the game-winning bucket on a wide-open layup off a pass from Rea. St. Helens got a defensive stand following Waite's hoop to salt away the season series sweep over Scappoose.

Scappoose almost got the Columbia County split, after it initially snuffed out the Lions' game-tying possession in the fourth quarter. The Indians deflected an errant entry pass to the wing, but Neil Wolfe was able to collect the loose ball, pass it to Gavin Knoke who found Rea relocating in the corner. Rea had to pump fake and then flick it because of a tough Scappoose closeout, but got it off clean and splashed it to send the game to overtime. The Lion wing is a live wire who now will be known as the Scappoose killer for years to come.

"He took that game over in the fourth quarter and overtime," Ramiskey said of Rea. "Luckily the ball found him at the right time, and he buried it."

No matter what happens the rest of the way, sweeping Scappoose will no doubt be a sweet memory for the St. Helens players who grew up playing with many of the current Indian crew in the Lion youth program until the seventh or eighth grade. If there are two games to get, regardless of how the year plays out, regardless of records, the Seven Mile War square offs are the ones to win.

PMG FILE PHOTO - St. Helens point guard Trevor Fitzgerald stepped up and played solid floor game against Scappoose. "You can always feel that the kids play harder in that game than any other game of the season," Ramiskey said. "It lived up to what we thought it was going to be. It's almost a playoff atmosphere every time you play against them. It's not like we're playoff teams right now, but the energy makes you think otherwise. You think you're playing for a state title. Guys really get up for it."

Scappoose made it a point of emphasis to pound the basketball inside to senior Tommy McKedy and Luke McNabb against St. Helens. McKedy, specifically, was a handful inside at 6—foot-5 with a stout build. But Wolfe was big on the boards. Waite etched his name in Seven Mile War lore with the game-winning hoop. Trevor Fitzgerald played well at point guard. Ramiskey praised Scappoose's gameplan and said the Indians played well but St. Helens was simply able to hit a couple of timelier shots when it mattered most.

"I thought Scappoose played really, really well," Ramiskey said. "They did everything the right way, we just made a few more shots. Nothing we did all night was in the rhythm of the offense. It was all off of broken plays and finding the shooters when they were there open. Scappoose took us out of what we wanted to do. I give them a lot of credit for throwing something different at us."

St. Helens is on the right track, sitting in sixth place in the Northwest Oregon Conference, two games back of Putnam with a huge game against the Kingsmen upcoming on Feb. 25. If the Lions can beat the Kingsmen on the road, a team they lost to by just eight points earlier in the year, and take out Milwaukie and La Salle in the final two games, they could very well end up in fourth place in the NWOC and make the 5A playoffs.

"Every game in league is tough," Ramiskey said. "It's going to be a battle every night. But the good thing is we rarely get blown out. Everything seems to be pretty close. Hopefully, we can get on a little run right here and earn that fourth spot. It all depends on if our guys want it or not. Hopefully, they do. Our coaching staff does. We're not going to take our foot off the gas pedal."


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