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The Timberwolves still play strong in their Elite 8 tournament opening contest

TIMES PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin sophomore Sidney Dering goes up to the basket during the Wolves game with West Salem at the Elite 8 Invitational.TUALATIN — For the most part, things were going the Timberwolves' way.

But, unfortunately for the Tualatin High School girls basketball team, things didn't finish up that way.

The Wolves, after leading for most of the contest, fell victim to a late West Salem rally, as they fell 54-49 to the Titans in a first-round game at the Elite 8 Invitational, held Dec. 27 at Tualatin High School.

"I think that we just need to do the little things that coach (Jay Ego) tells us, then we'll pull out a win," Tualatin senior guard Kassidy Lewis said after the game. "Our team is pretty young still, so we're still learning, and we can be pretty good."

"I think there are a lot of little things we need to work on, just like boxing out more and getting more rebounds and cutting down on our turnovers," said Tualatin junior post Natalie Lathrop, who led all scorers in the contest with 20 points. "Once we get those things figured out I think we'll be in good shape."

TIMES PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin sophomore post Natalie Lathrop shoots over West Salem junior Daphne Moskal during last weeks game. Lathrop scored 20 points in the contest.With the win, West Salem improved to 3-4 on the season to that point. Tualatin moved to 3-5, at that point, with the setback.

"This will help make us better," Lathrop said. "We've been working in practice, but we need game experience."

The Wolves got off to a strong start to the tournament opener. Lathrop scored six points in the opening period, and senior Natali Denning added four, helping Tualatin take a 16-12 lead to the second quarter.

Lathrop, who made her first eight shots from the field, continued to have the hot hand in the second quarter, scoring six points in the first 5:58 of the period. Lewis went 2 for 2 from the free-throw line to give the Wolves a 24-22 lead with 1:17 left in the first half.

TIMES PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin senior Natali Denning (left) looks to go up to the basket against West Salem junior Maddie Bertsch during last weeks game.West Salem, getting back-to-back baskets from junior Paige Alexander and senior Antonia Gonzales, rallied to take a 26-24 lead with 57 seconds remaining in the quarter. But Lathrop scored on a layup, coming off a pass by junior Sophie Long, with 10 seconds left in the period, tying the score at 26-26 at halftime.

The Wolves, in the third quarter, had an 8-0 run, which included a pair of free throws by sophomore Sidney Dering, a short-range banker by Lathrop, and consecutive baskets by freshman Lusi Tapasa, helping Tualatin take a 39-35 lead to the fourth quarter.

The Wolves stayed strong early in the final stanza. Denning scored six points in the period, and her basket on a drive to the hoop gave Tualatin a 49-45 lead with 2:11 left to play in the contest.

TIMES PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tualatin senior Kassidy Lewis (20) looks to shoot over West Salem sophomre Austynn Covill during last weeks game.But the Wolves wouldn't be able to score again. West Salem, with senior Maddie Bertsch scoring five straight points, and with Gonzales and junior Daphne Moskai adding two apiece, finished the game on a 9-0 run to get the 54-49 victory.

Still, the Wolves are looking at the positives for the contest.

"Our defense was pretty good," Lewis said. "We just need to close in on some 3-point shooters, then we would have had it."

"Once we rotate the ball around, we find gaps in the defense that we can attack," Lathrop said. "We need to look to do that more."

Lathrop scored her game-high 20 points on a 9-for-10 shooting night from the field. She also had four rebounds, four blocked shots and three steals.

Denning scored 10 points. Lewis had five points and Dering had two points, seven rebounds and three assists.

TIMES PHOTO: DAN BROODT - Tualatin senior Maliyah Ross (right) puts tight full-court pressure on West Salem sophomore Maddie Allstock during last weeks game.Tualatin, as a team, made 18 of 43 shots from the field and 13 of 15 free-throw attempts.

Sophomore Kyra Scoggin led a balanced West Salem scoring attack with 16 points. Bertsch added 14 for the Titans and Alexander had 10.

West Salem, as a team, made 19 of 45 shots from the field, with six 3-pointers, and 10 of 13 free-throw attempts.

The Wolves will be back in action Tuesday, when they host Lake Oswego in a Three Rivers League opener starting at 7 p.m.

"It's exciting," Lathrop said of opening league play. "We're looking forward to a good year."

"I think we're just still working on our shots, and working on our defense, and hopefully we'll do well in league," Lewis said.

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