Tigard girls start slow, but win big, in TRL opener
TIGARD — It wasn't exactly the start the Tigard High School girls basketball team was hoping for as it began defense of its Three Rivers League title.
But, but when the final horn sounded, the Tigers were celebrating an impressive victory.
Tigard, after falling behind Canby 13-2 early in the contest, came roaring back behind a strong defensive effort to get a 59-39 win over the Cougars in a Three Rivers League opener played Tuesday at Tigard High School.
"It means a lot," Tigard senior guard Paige LaFountain said of the league-opening victory. "We always want to start out strong in league, and, it wasn't the start we wanted, but we finished up strong."
"It's always good to open up league with a win, especially on your home court," said Tigard senior guard Campbell Gray, who scored a game-high 16 points in the contest.
With the loss, Canby moved to 4-8 on the season. With the win, the Tigers improved their overall season mark to 10-2. The victory also was the 21st straight in Three Rivers League play for Tigard, which is going for its fourth-straight TRL championship.
"It's been all three years for me, so to get it all four years would be pretty cool," said LaFountain, who has played for the past three Tiger league title teams. "We definitely had a hard preseason, and it made us a lot better, but we're always glad to get into league."
"We were looking forward to starting league, and it's always fun to get a win on your home court," Gray said.
But the opening moments of Tuesday's game couldn't have been too much fun for Tigard. Sure, the Tigers took a 2-0 lead on a pair of free throw by junior Kennedy Brown coming 53 seconds into the contest, but they missed on their first eight shots from the field. Meanwhile, Canby, led by sophomore Zoe Thompson and junior Nicole Mickelson, answered with a 13-0 run, giving the Cougars a 13-2 lead with 1:53 left to play in the first quarter.
"We didn't feel good then, but we didn't have any reason to hang our heads and get down on it," LaFountain said.
"Definitely, it was a slow start," Gray said. "They came out strong and we weren't ready for it. But we picked it up in the second quarter."
The Tigers got a 3-pointer by junior Delaney Leavitt, coming off an assist by LaFountain, and a follow-up basket by sophomore Ajae Holdman later in the opening period, trimming the Canby lead to 15-7 going into the second quarter.
And that's where Tigard got things going.
Tigard would tie the game, at 17-17, on a 3-pointer by Brown coming with 4:46 left in the period. The Tigers would then take a 20-17 lead with Leavitt connected on another 3-pointer, coming off another assist by LaFountain, with 4:21 left before halftime.
Leavitt scored four more points before the period ended. Senior post Dani Lyons added a layup and LaFountain drilled a 3-pointer, coming off a pass by Gray, to give Tigard a 29-22 halftime lead.
"We just knew that we needed to turn it up, and that we had the ability to get up on them," LaFountain said.
The Tigers continued to roll in the third quarter. They helped force Canby into seven turnovers in the period. Meanwhile, Gray sank a 3-pointer and scored nine points in the quarter. Leavitt added her third 3-pointer of the game and scored five points in the period, helping Tigard up the margin to 45-33 going into the fourth quarter.
Tigard, getting baskets by Holdman, Lyons, Gray, LaFountain and freshman Sarah Lamet, and a pair of free throws by Brown, went on a 12-0 run to open the final stanza, giving the Tigers their biggest lead of the game, at 57-33, with 2:10 remaining in the contest. From there, Tigard cruised to the 59-39 victory.
Turnover were likely a key factor in the Tigard win, as the Tigers helped force Canby into 31 turnovers for the contest, while having just seven turnovers themselves.
"I think our defensive intensity got us going," Gray said. "I think our press was really effective, especially in getting some backcourt turnovers."
"We've been working a lot on our press, and we knew we'd be able to come up with some turnovers," LaFountain said. "We didn't want to let up on that, and it worked out."
In addition to her game-high 16 points, Gray also had seven steals, five rebounds and three assists in the win. Leavitt scored 15 points. Brown had seven points and three steals. Lyons and Holdman each scored six points. LaFountain had a strong overall game with five points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists. Lamet had six rebounds.
Tigard, as a team, made 21 of 65 shots from the field, with six 3-pointers, and 11 of 12 free-throw attempts.
Junior Ally Odell led Canby with 11 points. Mickelson added eight for the Cougars.
Canby, as a team, made 14 of 37 shots from the field, with three 3-pointers, and eight of 14 free-throw attempts.
The Tigers will be back in action on Friday, when they travel to West Linn for a league league game starting at 7 p.m.
"West Linn is always a good team," Gray said. "They've got some good girls this year, and we're always excited to play them. We've got a game plan."
"We have to start out better, come out with a lot of energy, play really hard and lock down their shooters," LaFountain said.
Canby will play at Lakeridge Friday at 7 p.m.