Tigard girls withstand Titans' challenge
TIGARD — They're always going to face a fired-up opponent.
They're always going to get the other team's best shot.
And the Tigers are totally OK with that.
The Tigard High School girls basketball team, ranked in the No. 1 spot in the latest Class 6A coaches poll, says its ready for all the challenges.
On Friday, the Tigers fought off what seemed to West Salem's best challenge to get a 64-57 win over the Titans in a non-league game played at Tigard High School.
"It was really good. We knew that they were going to try and come in and show us up on our home court," said Tigard junior guard Kennedy Brown, who scored 16 points in the victory. "After the Southridge win, and losing by just one at Beaverton, we're going to get everyone's best game. I think it's a good thing. Everyone want to challenge us now, and that will definitely help us later on in the season."
"They (opposing teams) definitely step up every game, so we have to know that they're going to play their best," said Tigard junior wing Delaney Leavitt, who scored 12 points. "It's always a challenge, and we love playing the best."
With the loss, West Salem, from the Mountain Valley Conference, moved to 2-5 on the season. Tigard, which has played a challenging early-season schedule, with games with teams such as Southridge, Beaverton, Grant and Sheldon, improved to 7-1 with the victory.
"It's been pretty good, with how hard of a preseason we've had so far," Leavitt said. "We've definitely grown from it."
"It's been challenging but it will help us out later in the season, with the playoffs," Brown said. "The experience will help us. I'm happy that we have this hard schedule."
The fired-up West Salem squad, getting baskets by senior Antonia Gonzales and sophomore Maddie Allstock, took an early 4-2 lead in Friday's game. But that would be the only time Tigard would trail in the contest.
The Tigers quickly answered with back-to-back baskets by Brown and senior guard Campbell gray to take a 6-4 lead with 4 minutes and 28 seconds left to play in the opening period. Delaney sank a 3-pointer and Gray had consecutive hoops later in the quarter, giving Tigard a 13-6 lead at the end of the period.
The Tigers kept rolling early in the second quarter. Tigard sophomore Ajae Kadel sank a free throw to open the period, and freshman Sarah Lamet and Leavitt followed with consecutive 3-pointer, both coming off assists from Gray, upped the Tiger lead to 20-6 with 6:40 left in the first half.
But West Salem, with sophomore Kyra Scoggin sinking three 3-pointers, and scoring 11 points in the final 4:28 of the period, cut the Tigard lead to 33-26 at halftime.
The Tigers opened the third quarter with back-to-back baskets by senior Paige LaFountain and Gray, upping the margin to 37-26 with 6:40 left in the period. But, again, West Salem came fighting back, trimming the margin to 45-38 on a basket by senior Maddie Bertsch coming with 45 seconds remaining in the period.
The Tigers answered, getting a 3-point basket by senior Dani Lyons, coming off an assist by LaFountain, and a layup by Brown right before the period ended, giving the home team a 50-38 cushion going into the fourth quarter.
Delaney scored on a steal and layup to open the final stanza. Soon after, Gray sank back-to-back baskets, giving Tigard its biggest lead of the game, at 56-41, wth 5:47 left to play in the contest.
West Salem, still fighting hard, trimmed the lead to 63-57 following a 3-pointer by Gonzales with 18 seconds left to play. But Tigard, with Gray going 1 for 2 from the free-throw line with 9.6 seconds remaining, closed out the 64-57 victory.
"It was a little rough, but I think it went pretty well, overall, and we still got the win," Leavitt said. "We stayed composed. Even though we got the lead, early on, and let them come back, we just stayed in the lead, and kept it."
"I think we just needed to have composure, play good defense, and execute on offense," Brown said. "It all starts with our defense. Our offense will come to us, but on defense, that's where we bring it."
Gray led all scorers in the contest with 22 points. She also had six assists, five rebounds and two steals. Brown had six rebounds to go with her 16 points. Leavitt had 12 points and a pair of steals. Lyons scored five points and pulled down six rebounds. Kadel scored four points while also helping to force West Salem turnovers with her pressure on defense.
Tigard, as a team, made 22 of 45 shots from the field, with four 3-point baskets, and 16 of 24 free-throw attempts.
Scoggin led West Salem with 17 points. Junior Paige Alexander added 15 points for the Titans. Gonzales scored 11 and Bertsch had 10.
West Salem, as a team, made 19 of 47 shots from the field, with nine 3-pointers, and 10 of 12 free-throw attempts.
The Tigers will be back in action on Thursday, when they open play at the PIL Holiday Classic, being held at Franklin High School. Tigard will face Benson in a Diamond Bracket first-round game Thursday at noon. If the Tigers win on Thursday, they'll play either McMinnville or Garfield, Wash., in a semifinals game Friday at 3:30 p.m. The tournament runs through Saturday.