Gutsy Tigard girls win tourney thriller with Jesuit
PORTLAND — There is no better way to describe it.
That was absolutely, positively gutsy.
And, thanks to its gutsy effort, the Tigard High School girls basketball team kept its season alive.
The Tigers over came injuries, foul problems, a fourth-quarter deficit, a disappointing setback less than 14 hours removed, and a strong outside shooting performance by Jesuit — while also turning to a freshman reserve in crunch time — to get a 45-43 win over the Crusaders in a Class 6A state tournament fourth-place semifinal game played Friday at the University of Portland's Chiles Center.
"That was the gutsiest win we've had at Tigard in a long time," Tigard coach Steve Naylor said after the victory. "Without having Kennedy (Brown), and Campbell (Gray) sat for most of the fourth quarter, we had to have other kids step up."
"We dug deep," Tigard senior post Dani Lyons said. "With Kennedy being out, and with Campbell being in and out, and the foul trouble, and the loss last night (45-41 to Sheldon in a tourney quarterfinal game), so it was all very chaotic. So it took a lot to get us composed and to play like we know."
"Their team has a lot of seniors, and they really wanted to win it, but we wanted to win it more," Tigard junior Delaney Leavitt said. "This is a huge win. Our goal always is to play on the last day, and we're doing that."
"It definitely is a big win, because we came out of the last game super-crushed, but we came back and worked hard," said Tigard freshman post Sarah Lamet, who sank the game-winning basket with less than three seconds left to play in the game. "We started working better as a team. We really started to want it."
With the loss, Jesuit, the No. 3 team out of the Metro League, and the No. 6 team in the final OSAA power rankings, finished its season with a final overall record of 21-7.
Tigard, the Three Rivers League champion, and the No. 2 team in the power rankings, improved to 25-4 with the win. The Tigers also advance to state tournament fourth-place game, where they'll face Three Rivers League rival West Linn in a game starting at 10:45 a.m. on Saturday.
"We are so excited, and thrilled to play West Linn tomorrow," Leavitt said with a smile.
"We all just knew how important this was, and that we were playing for each other," Lyons said.
Tigard got off to what looked to be a promising start to the game, with Gray, Tigard's senior guard, scoring four straight points to give the Tigers a 4-0 lead. But, with 5 minutes and 41 seconds left to play in first quarter, Brown, Tigard's spark plug of a junior guard, went down with an apparent left-knee injury, and she wouldn't return the rest of the game.
Jesuit would rally to take an 8-6 lead on a 3-pointer by senior Elsa Hookland, coming with 3:21 left to play in the opening period. But Tigard, getting baskets from Lyons, Leavitt and sophomore Ajae Holdman, would take a 12-10 lead to the second quarter.
Gray scored seven points in the second quarter, and Leavitt added a pair of baskets, helping the Tigers offset three more Jesuit 3-pointers and take a 28-26 lead to halftime.
But the second half would present more challenges for the Tigers. Leavitt had three personal fouls at halftime, while Lyons and Holdman had two apiece. Meanwhile, Gray, the two-time Three Rivers League Player of the Year, was hurting from an ankle injury she suffered in a state-playoff win over McNary eight days earlier, and was able to play just five minutes in the second half.
Holdman scored four points in the third quarter, two coming on a follow-up shot and the other two coming off an assist from Lyons. But Jesuit, with Hookland sinking her fourth 3-pointer of the game, tied the contest at 36-36 going into the fourth quarter.
Jesuit senior Rachel Hickey opened the final stanza with a 3-pointer, giving the Crusaders a 39-36 lead. But Lyons answered right back with a 3-pointer off a pass from Leavitt, making the score 39-39 with 5:48 left to play in the game.
The Tigers then took a 41-39 lead with Lamet sank a 14-foot jumper with 4:13 remaining. But Jesuit responded with a basket on a drive by senior point guard Anna Fanelli, tying the game again. Another Lamet basket regained the lead for the Tigers. But Fanelli scored on another drive to the hoop, tying the game at 2:09 left in the game.
Tigard misfired on a shot with 1:55 remaining, with Jesuit getting the rebound. The Crusaders then looked to be going for the last shot of the game. But a layup attempt by Hookland bounded off the rim, with Lyons snagging the ball with 15 seconds left to play.
Campbell, who played just the final 1:21 of the fourth quarter, was fouled (non-shooting) with 5.7 seconds remaining. The Tigers, following a time out, tried to set up an inbounds play, but ended up calling time out again. They went with a different play, and this one worked.
Senior Paige LaFountain threw a high inbounds pass to the 6-foot-2 Lamet, who immediately took a 10-foot jumper. The ball bounced off the front rim, off the backboard and then off the side rim before falling into the net, giving the Tigers a 45-43 lead with 2.8 seconds left to play.
"I was a little nervous," Lamet said. "I was shaky, but I got out there and took a breath and tried to play like I usually do. When it hit the rim, I was shaking. It felt really good when it went in."
"I knew she was going to make it. She makes that shot all the time. We all had so much faith in her," Leavitt said. "I was so excited. I was supposed to run back on defense, but I didn't, because I was so excited."
"That was crazy," Lyons said. "Every bounce was like another breath, but it was really exciting when it went in. I also was supposed to run back, but I just yelled out, 'yes, go Sarah.' Yeah, I was ecstatic."
"We've never ran that play before in a game," Naylor said. "I think I've had play on my sheet for three years, but we've never ran it, so they've never seen it. But we run those last-second plays in practice for when we might need it."
Still, despite Lamet's heroics, the game wasn't over yet. Jesuit, following a time out, inbounded the ball ahead near the mid-court stripe, quickly calling time out again, leaving 2.1 seconds left to play. Jesuit ad time to set something up, but Gray ruined those plans, diving to knock away the ensuing inbounds pass to wrap up the Tigard win.
"Campbell's a tough kid," Lyons said. "For her to be hurting like she is, and to go out there and put her body on the line like that, you know that we're all doing this for each other. We've got each other's backs."
"We needed Campbell out there for that last play," Naylor said. "You could tell, that changed the whole thing for us."
Gray led a balanced Tigard scoring attack in the win with 13 points, 12 coming in the first half. Lamet scored 10 points on a 4-for-5 shooting night from the field. Holdman also had a strong game off the bench, scoring six points while also helping lead the charge on defense.
"We Kennedy out, and Campbell hurting, we had to step up," Leavitt said. "Sarah and Ajae really stepped up."
Lyons had eight points and six rebounds. Leavitt scored eight points and LaFountain had a pair of assists.
Tigard, as a team, made 17 of 35 shots from the field, with two 3-pointers, and nine of 15 free-throw attempts.
Hookland and Fanelli led the Crusaders with 14 points apiece.
Jesuit, as a team, made 14 of 39 shots from the field, with seven 3-pointers, and eight of 12 free-throw attempts.
West Linn, which got a 65-56 overtime win over South Medford in Friday's other fourth-place semifinal game, brings a 21-7 record into Saturday's game with Tigard. The teams have played twice this season, each getting a win — Tigard won 63-46 in a game played Jan. 11 at West Linn High School, and the Lions triumphed 47-45 in a game played Feb. 6 at Tigard High School.
"This is kind of like who's going to be on top of the Three Rivers League," Lyons said. "We won league, and we know that they're upset about it. But, we know we can still hold the title. I'm giving everything. If I go out, I go out."