SHERWOOD — The Sherwood High School girls basketball team has high hopes for its first-ever season as a member of the Pacific Conference.
With that in mind, the Lady Bowmen wanted to make a good first impression.
Sherwood, playing in its first Pacific Conference contest, came away with a 43-33 win over Liberty in a conference opener played Wednesday at Sherwood High School.
"We wanted a good start, with this first win, to put us out there," said Sherwood senior Alex Verkamp, who scored eight points in the victory. "We're hoping to be league champs, so getting this first win put us in the right position to do that."
"The league title's been a goal since the beginning of the year. It's been a goal since we found out we were in this new league," said Sherwood senior Aubrie Emmons, who led all scorers in the contest with 17 points. "This first game was super important. Our mindset is to win the league championship, so this game was important to set the tone for the rest of the season."
With the loss in the conference opener, Liberty, which had a furious fourth-quarter rally to cut the final margin to 10, moved to 6-7 on the season.
"We took three quarters to warm up, and that's too long," Liberty sophomore guard Taylin Smith said. "We know we can play like that. We just have to figure out how to play like we did in the fourth quarter the entire game."
"Our heads weren't in it the first three quarters," said Liberty junior post Clara Robbins, who led the Falcons with 12 points. "In the fourth quarter, we finally got an urge to change the game. We just got angry. We thought there were a few things that shouldn't be happening now."
Sherwood improved to 8-5 on the season with the victory.
"It means a lot," Emmons said of the win. "The past few years, we've been in a tough league (the Three Rivers League), and it's been just a grind every night. So, being so close last year, this year we said 'we're just going to get it,' and we've got one up on the board."
The Lady Bowmen got a pair of baskets by Emmons, as well as three rebounds and three steals by senior post Kaytlin Cooke in a slow-paced first quarter, helping Sherwood to grab a 7-3 lead at the end of the period.
The Lady Bowmen then seemed to turn up the defensive intensity even more in the second quarter. The Falcons missed their first seven shots from the field in the period. Meanwhile, Sherwood went on a 9-0 run, which included a pair of baskets by Emmons, one each by Verkamp and sophomore Joley Sproul, and a free throw by Cooke, giving the home team a 16-3 lead with 2 minutes and 55 seconds left before halftime.
Liberty ended the run with a basket on a drive to the hoop by junior Alexa Smith. Sherwood responded with back-to-back hoops by Emmons and junior Ava Boughey. The Falcons got a last-minute 3-point play by senior Maliah Jobe, trimming the Sherwood lead to 20-8 at halftime.
Liberty opened the third quarter with a 3-point basket by sophomore Livia Knapp. But the Lady Bowmen answered in a big way. A follow-up basket by Sherwood sophomore Kylah Williams ignited an 11-0 run, which included four straight points by Emmons and back-to-back baskets by Verkamp, giving the Lady Bowmen their biggest lead of the game, at 31-11, with 3:27 left in the period.
Liberty, tying to battle back, got four straight points by Robbins and a steal and layup by Taylin Smith, trimming the lead to 32-17 going into the fourth quarter.
Sherwood would push the margin to 43-24 after Cooke sank a pair of free throws with 1:39 left to play.
Liberty, not giving up, ended the game on a 9-0 run in the final 1:11 of the contest. Senior Emily Le got the run started with a pair of free throws. Robbins scored four straight points and Jobe finished the game with three straight points, making the final score 43-33.
"We definitely planned for them a lot on the offensive end," Verkamp said. "On the defensive end, they were just in the spots where we always practice, and where we work to be, so the offense they were running just fit perfectly with our defense. We worked really hard and were able to get to all of our spots."
"We thought they'd come out with some offense we didn't know, but they were right in our spots, so we said, 'OK, here we go,'" Emmons said. "This was so fun. We didn't end it like we wanted to, but we know we started off strong."
In addition to her game-high 17 points, Emmons also had three rebounds and two assists in the victory.
"I've been trying to work on more than just shooting threes, I've been trying to get into the paint," she said.
Verkamp got six of her eight points in the second half. Cooke had seven points, 12 rebounds and four steals. Boughey had six points and three steals.
Sherwood, as a team, made 15 of 35 shots from the field, with one 3-pointer, and 12 of 18 free-throw attempts. The Lady Bowmen, with Cooke and Williams leading the way, also outrebounded Liberty by a 33-18 margin.
"I had a lot of fun, and I think everyone did," Verkamp said.
For Liberty, Robbins had four rebounds and two steals to go with her team-high 12 points. Taylin Smith scored seven points, all coming in the second half, and a pair of steals. Jobe also scored seven points for the Falcons.
Liberty, as a team, made 10 of 47 shots from the field, with one 3-pointer, and 12 of 16 free-throw attempts.
Still, the Falcons are encouraged by their strong finish to the game.
"We're going to take that fourth quarter, and build off of that, and get rid of the rest, because that's not how we play, and not how we want to play," Taylin Smith said.
"Our heads weren't in it the first three quarters," Robbins said. "In the fourth quarter, we finally got an urge to change the game. We just got angry. We thought there were a few things that shouldn't be happening now."
Both teams will be back in action on Friday. Sherwood will play at Forest Grove and Liberty will travel to Glencoe for conference games starting at 7:15 p.m.
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