Century girls tip Sherwood in defensive battle
SHERWOOD — Defense ruled.
Every point had to be earned. Every possession was a battle.
And, in the end, because of its defense, the Century High School girls basketball team picked up a crucial, hard-fought victory.
The Jaguars, swarming on the defensive end of the court, came away with a 27-26 win over Sherwood in a Pacific Conference game played Wednesday at Sherwood High School.
"It's really big," Century junior guard Angela Baltazar said of the victory. "We've been planning and preparing for Sherwood, and it's really good that we came out here and got the 'W.'"
"Defense was the key. That's been our thing all season," said Century senior guard Janelle Maligaya, who led the Jaguars with 11 points. "It's always a defensive battle."
With the win, Century improved to 4-2 in Pacific Conference games (14-4 overall), putting the Jaguars in second place in the conference standings.
"We've set a lot of goals for the season, and we're getting them," Maligaya said. "We want to finish up there, in our league. We knew, coming into this week, that we had to win these games."
"We're just confident in each other," Baltazar said.
Sherwood moved to 3-3 in Pacific Conference play (10-8 overall), putting the Lady Bowmen in a tie with Glencoe and McMinnville for third place in the conference standings.
"It was definitely a battle. It was fun to be playing out there, we just need to hit some shots," said Sherwood senior post Kaytlin Cooke, who led all scorers with 12 points. "Everyone had a rough night shooting, and that's usually the deal with us. We like those low-scoring games, playing at our pace."
Each team's defense seemed to help control the pace — as well as limit the scoring — in Wednesday's game. The Century defense helped force Sherwood into a 9-for-44 shooting night from the field. Meanwhile, the Lady Bowmen defense helped force the Jaguars into 23 turnovers (including 17 in the second half) for the contest.
"It was rough," Cooke said "They compacted their 2-3 zone right into the middle, and that makes it hard when you're not shooting well. And we also missed some layups."
Century did get off to a strong start to the game. Baltazar had a pair of baskets and Maligaya sank a 3-point basket, helping the Jaguars came an 11-6 lead at the end of the opening period.
"That was very important," Baltazar said of the strong start. "It set the tempo for us."
Cooke opened the second quarter by sinking a short-range jumper, coming off an assist by senior Aubrie Emmons, but Century answered with back-to-back 3-pointers by Maligaya, giving the Jaguars their biggest lead of the game, at 17-8, with 6 minutes and 52 seconds remaining before halftime.
But that's when the Lady Bowmen started battling back. Sherwood junior Ava Boughey scored on a layup off a pass from senior Alex Verkamp, junior Julia Leitzinger made a free throw and Cooke had a pair of hoops, helping the Lady Bowmen trim the margin to 19-15 at halftime.
Both teams struggled, in a big way, on the offensive end in the third quarter. Century got baskets from Baltazar and sophomore Barakat Rahmon in the period, while Sherwood got a pair of free throws by Boughey and a basket on a drive by sophomore Joley Sproul, leaving the Jaguars with a 23-19 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Sherwood got even closer, at 23-21, after Leitzinger connected on a 13-foot jumper with 6:33 left in the contest. Century responded with a jumper by senior Sarah Gruber, coming off an assist by Baltazar, giving the Jaguars with a 25-21 advantage with 6:05 left to play. Neither team would be able to score again until Maligaya sank a pair of free throws with 2:23 remaining, upping the Century lead to 27-21.
But the Lady Bowmen battled back again. Cooke nailed a 3-pointer and freshman Laney Snelling went 2 for 3 from the free-throw line after she was fouled on a 3-point attempt, making the score 27-26 with 1:09 left in the game.
Century then missed on a free-throw attempt, in a one-and-one bonus situation, with 36.8 seconds remaining, and Leitzinger grabbed the rebound.
Sherwood tried to work for a go-ahead basket, but Century, with two fouls to give, twice fouled the Lady Bowmen before they could get a shot off. That left Sherwood with one last chance, with the Lady Bowmen inbounding the ball with just 2.9 seconds left to play, but a last-second shot hit off the rim and bounded away, leaving Century to celebrate a one-point win.
"We just had faith and kept pushing. We never gave up, even when the game was close," Baltazar said. "We just made sure we knew when to foul, when not to foul, and how much time there was, what the score was, and we kept talking."
In addition to Maligaya's 11 points, the Jaguars also got six points from Baltazar, four each from junior Amy Walkenhorst and Rahmon and two from Gruber.
Century, as a team, made 11 of 24 shots from the field, with three 3-pointers, and two of three free-throw attempts.
"Our team chemistry has been totally different this year," Maligaya said. "It's been good."
In addition to her game-high 12 points, Cooke also had a pair of steals for Sherwood.
"I knew I had to step up and hit some shots for my team," she said.
Leitzinger added five points for the Lady Bowmen. Boughey scored four. Sproul and Snelling each had two and sophomore Kylah Williams scored one. Verkamp had three steals.
"It sucks to lose, I hate it," Cooke said. "We'll practice hard for Newberg. We'll battle our way through it. I have so much confidence in my team. We've grown so much since last summer."
Both teams will be back in action in conference games on Friday. Sherwood will travel to Newberg and Century will host Liberty in games set to start at 5:45 p.m.