Tigard girls turn up the intensity and roll past McNary
TIGARD — It's the playoffs.
And, in the playoffs, where it's win or go home, you can't afford a letdown — not for a game, not for a half, not even for a single quarter.
The Tigard High School girls basketball team realized that, and the Tigers did something about it.
Tigard, after a sluggish second-quarter performance, turned up its intensity in a big way in the second half, pulling away to score an impressive 52-24 win over McNary in a Class 6A state playoff first-round game played Thursday at Tigard High School.
"It was really good, getting this first round out of the way, and preparing for Grants Pass now," said Tigard junior guard Kennedy Brown, who scored a game-high 13 points.
"This was very important," Tigard senior post Dani Lyons said. "It meant a lot more, because (Tiger seniors) Campbell (Gray), Paige (LaFountain) and I have been playing together for so long, and this is it. It was fun to get after it."
"It felt really good to get this win out of the way. We've got a lot of hard things to work for in the future," said Tigard sophomore Ajae Holdman, who gave the Tigers a spark of the bench. "I think all of us are really pumped up. We knew we needed to get this one. We were all in unison with working hard and getting prepared."
With the loss, McNary, the No. 4 team out of the Mountain Valley Conference, and the No. 31 team n the final OSAA power rankings, finished it season with a final overall record of 10-15.
Tigard, the Three Rivers League champion, and the No. 2 team in the power rankings, improved to 23-3 on the season with the win. The Tigers also advance to the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs, where they'll host Grants Pass in a game set to start at 4:15 p.m. on Saturday.
"It's really excited, especially for our seniors," Holdman said. "We're really playing hard for our seniors right now."
The Tigers certainly seemed to be playing hard at the start of Thursday's playoff opener. Gray started the contest with a 3-point play, and Brown followed with a 3-point basket, coming off a pass from Gray, giving Tigard a 6-0 lead just 1 minute and 27 seconds into the contest.
Tigard kept rolling throughout the first quarter. Gray had five points, five rebounds and a pair of assists in the period, while Brown scored six points, helping the Tigers take a 17-5 lead to the second quarter.
But that's where things slowed a bit.
Tigard scored just six points in the period, coming on baskets by Gray, Brown and freshman post Sarah Lamet. Meanwhile, McNary, with senior Sabella Alfaro scoring eight points in the quarter, trimmed the Tigard lead to 23-13 at the break.
"We talked about it at halftime," Lyons said. "We said that our energy was really low, we were starting to think that we had it, but it was only the second quarter. But we picked it up again, realizing that we needed to share the ball more, and we fixed our little mistakes on defense. It was just the little things."
"We wanted to emphasize coming out strong, like always, and we did that, but, personally, I think they beat us in the second quarter," Brown said. "That was a big let down, but we bounced back and played really good defense."
They certainly did.
The Tigers took off again to start the second half, opening the third quarter with a basket by Lyons, off a pass by LaFountain, and a basket by junior Delaney Leavitt on a drive to the hoop. Lyons and Leavitt had back-to-back baskets again later in the period, with Leavitt's being a 3-pointer, off another LaFountain assist, giving Tigard a 36-17 lead with 3:29 left in the quarter.
Holdman wrapped up the period with a steal and layup, giving the Tigers a 39-19 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Holdman then opened the final stanza the same way she finished the third quarter, with a steal and layup.
"When Ajae gets those, it fires us up," Lyons said with a smile.
"As a sophomore, and to get the minutes I do, to get the steals makes me feel better about the way I'm playing," Holdman said. "To have my teammates cheer me on feels really good."
The rest of the Tigers also stepped up on defense, holding McNary to 11 second-half points on 4-for-22 shooting from the field.
"We always try to focus on defense the most, because we know that our offense will come to us," Lyons said.
In addition to her game-high 13 points, Brown also had four rebounds and two steals in the victory. Gray had 11 points, nine rebounds and two assists. Holdman scored nine points. Lyons, hitting the boards hard, had eight rebounds to go with eight points.
"Before every game, our (Tigard assistant coach) Erica (Hansen) will come up to me and say, 'how many tonight?' and I'll give her a number," Lyons said, referring to rebounds. "Tonight, I said eight, and, look, I got eight. I set a goal before every game, and try and reach it."
Leavitt scored seven points for the Tigers. Lamet had a pair of blocked shots and LaFountain had three assists.
Tigard, as a team, made 22 of 47 shots from the field, with two 3-pointers, and six of nine free-throw attempts.
Alfaro led the Celtics with 10 points. Sophomore Mackenzie Proctor added six.
McNary, as a team, made 10 of 37 shots from the field, with two 3-pointers, and two of seven free-throw attempts.
Grants Pass, the No. 3 team out of the Southwest Conference, and the No. 15 team in the power rankings, brings a record of 16-9 into Saturday's playoff game.
The game will also be a rematch of a state-playoff second-round game from a year ago, which the Tigers won 51-48 at Tigard High School.
"It will be a good game, again, with Grants Pass," Brown said. "We'll have to come out ready to play, play our hardest, execute on defense and offense, and be smart."
"It's a huge game," Lyons said. "We know that Grants Pass is coming back. Last year was a big battle, and this year isn't going to be any different. We're going to work hard tomorrow, study what they're doing, and, hopefully, be prepared."
The winner of Saturday's game at Tigard will advance to the Class 6A state tournament, and face either Sheldon, Bend or Roosevelt in a tourney quarterfinal game, set to be played Thursday at 8:15 p.m. at the University of Portland's Chiles Center.