Tigard girls top West Linn to finish on a high note
PORTLAND — The Tigard High School girls basketball team got off to a rough start to the Class 6A state tournament.
But the Tigers were happy — really, really happy — with how they finished up at the tournament.
Tigard, after losing to Sheldon in a tournament quarterfinal game on Thursday, bounced back to defeat Jesuit on Friday, and then capped things off by running to a 44-34 win over Three Rivers League rival West Linn in the state tournament fourth-place game, played Saturday at the University of Portland's Chiles Center.
"That was a really, really fun game," said Tigard senior guard Campbell Gray, who scored a game-high 24 points in the victory. "The goal here always is to play three games, and end on a win. We did that. We came out with a lot of energy today. It was a league opponent in West Linn, so we really wanted to get that win. The last time we played them, they beat us by two, so this was a little bit of payback."
"It means a lot," Tigard senior guard Paige LaFountain said. "We had a rough first game, but it means a lot to come back stronger. These last two days, we finished strong. And, with West Linn being in our league, and kind of being our rivals the last four years, it means a lot to go out with a win against them. They're a real good team, and they played hard, but it just feels good to beat them."
"It was very exciting," said Tigard senior post Dani Lyons, who made five 3-point baskets on her way to scoring 17 points. "For as important that this was, beating West Linn, it was more important to go out there as a team and play together, which we did. So that was really exciting to go out like that."
With the loss, West Linn, the No. 2 team out of the Three Rivers League, and the No. 4 team in the final OSAA power rankings, finished its season with a final overall record of 21-8, as well as earning the sixth-place trophy at the state tournament.
"We're proud," West Linn junior Elisabeth Dombrow said. "Whether it was fourth place or sixth place, I'm just so proud of this team and how far we've gotten. We are so young and so just making it to the Chiles Center was a great accomplishment."
"There's a lot of good teams in the state and just getting to be here and be one of the top eight teams is an accomplishment," said West Linn sophomore post Aaronette Vonleh, who led the Lions with 10 points. "And to be able to play again on Saturday for fourth and sixth place is still a good accomplishment. We knew going into it, if we won or lost, we'd still made it pretty far."
Tigard, the Three Rivers League champion, and the No. 2 team in the final power rankings, finished its season with a final overall record of 26-4. The Tigers also claimed the state-tourney fourth-place trophy for the second straight year.
"We came out, two days removed from that Sheldon loss, so we shook that off, and we had an in-league opponent today, and we didn't want to lose that game," Tigard coach Steve Naylor said. "They beat us on our home court, and we beat them the first time, so this was to kind of settle it. Plus, it was for fourth place, and we have a super-competitive group of girls. I knew they'd show up today and give a great effort."
"It was good to go out and compete against a team like West Linn," said Tigard sophomore Ajae Holdman, who pulled down a game-high nine rebounds. "It really meant a lot to win our last one, and give our all to dedicate this one to our seniors."
Tigard, although fired up to play West Linn, entered the game a bit undermanned. Tiger starting junior guard Kennedy Brown was unavailable due to a knee injury she suffered early in the win over Jesuit. Tigard also didn't know if Gray would be able to go, after playing just five second-half minutes in the win over Jesuit, due to a lingering ankle injury.
"We knew we weren't going to have Kennedy, and didn't know how much we'd have Campbell," Lyons said. "We knew that she'd go out there and give everything she had, but we weren't too sure what that was going to be. So we all knew that we had to step up more than usual. And, we all did."
Well, as it turned out, Gray was ready to go, and she showed it right away, scoring seven points in the first quarter. Vonleh also got off to a strong start, scoring six points in the opening 3 minutes and 33 seconds of the game. But Tigard, with Lyons sinking a pair of 3-point baskets in the period, would take a 14-11 lead to the second quarter.
That's where the Tigers started to take charge. Holdman opened the period with a basket coming off a baseline drive. Gray then scored seven unanswered points, giving Tigard a 23-11 lead with 2:42 left in the quarter.
Meanwhile, West Linn missed its firsts six shots from the field in the period, and didn't score until Vonleh sank a four-foot jumper with 2:16 left before halftime.
Tigard answered with with Lyons' third 3-pointer of the first half, helping the Tigers take a 26-15 lead at the break.
But the Lions came roaring back in the third quarter. West Linn sophomore Audrey Roden opened the period with a 3-pointer, and she followed that up with a basket on a foul-line jumper. Sophomore Cami Fulcher added a pair of free throws, cutting the Tigard lead to 26-22 with 4:00 left in the quarter.
Gray scored five straight points to end the West Linn run, but the Lions closed out the period with five straight points by Dombrow, including a 3-pointer coming with 18 seconds on the clock, cutting the Tigard lead to 31-27 going into the fourth quarter.
"We got a little too far ahead of ourselves," Lyons said. "We were up by 11, and we thinking 'we have this.' But they fought back. We were in a little bit of a lull. That's how basketball goes, but we got going again."
The Tigers certainly did.
Gray opened the final stanza with a basket on a 16-foot jumper. Then, on an ensuing Tigard possession, Lyons got to the left corner and, as Gray was driving the lane, she yelled out, "Campbell."
Gray then zipped a pass over the Lyons, who then swished her fourth 3-pointer of the game, giving the Tigers a 36-27 lead with 5:50 left in the contest.
Lyons made yet another 3-pointer, coming off a pass from LaFountain, upping the lead to double digits, at 41-31, with 3:11 left to play.
From there, Tigard added a free throw by Gray, and two foul shots by Lyons, coming with 56.4 seconds remaining, to wrap up the 44-34 victory.
"We all knew, with this being our last game, that we all needed to put everything out there," LaFountain said. "We had nothing to lose, and credit to Dani for hitting so many 3s. We always knew she was a good shooter, but going off like that, we're so proud of her, and very happy. It was great."
"We had a strong start, and Dani was phenomenal," Gray said. "She's such a good shooter. This year, she started shooting from the outside more, and she's so, so good. That gave us such a boost, such a lift. When Dani would hit a 3, everyone got so excited. That was crazy."
Gray, a four-year starter for the Tigers, certainly seemed to step up in her final Tigard game, despite the ankle injury. She scored her game-high 24 points on a 7-for-11 shooting performance from the field. She also had seven rebounds.
"We had Campbell as a question mark, so we had (freshman) Sarah (Lamet) and Ajae ready to go, and it turned out that Campbell was ready to go," Naylor said. "She played big minutes and had a great game."
"Yesterday, I didn't get the recovery time I needed," Gray said. "I had to turn around and play in about 10 hours, so I was in a little bit of pain then. But, today, I felt good."
Lyons shot at a 5-for-7 clip from 3-point range on her way to scoring 17 points.
"That was great. I've been waiting for that," Naylor said. "She's got one of the most beautiful shots, that lefty, with the perfect spin and rotation — it's a great shot. She can do that. We've seen her do that in practice again and again, we just haven't seen a consistent bunch of them in a game, until today, and there couldn't have been a better time."
"Nope, never," Lyons said when asked if she's ever made five 3-pointers in a game before. "I think that's a career high. I'm not too sure why that happened. I was feeling it. After the third, or fourth one, I knew this was my game to go out on. It was my last one, so I thought I'd just go for it. I guess it was just a good game for me."
Holdman, starting in place of the injured Brown, had five of her game-high nine rebounds on the offensive end, giving the Tigers some crucial extra opportunities.
"Ajae really went to work on the boards," Naylor said. "She got us a bunch more possessions that we wouldn't have had. She did a great job offensive rebounding today."
"There were a couple I let loose, but that happens," Holdman said. "Getting the rebounds is one of my strengths. Reaching up and getting that ball is just rewarding."
LaFountain had six rebounds and three assists. Junior Delaney Leavitt had two assists in addition to playing strong perimeter defense.
Tigard, as a team, made 13 of 32 shots from the field, with five 3-pointers, and 13 of 20 free-throw attempts.
"It was our last game, and we ended on a good one," Gray said with a smile.
"We were going to go down swinging and fighting, if that's what it took," Lyons said. "We did not want to lose to West Linn. They gave us everything they had."
For West Linn, Vonleh scored all of her team-high 10 points in the first half. She also had five rebounds and a pair of steals. Fulcher and Dombrow each scored eight points, with Fulcher also having four assists. Roden scored five points, and sophomore Payton Shelstad had three.
West Linn, as a team, made 14 of 46 shots from the field, with four 3-pointers, and two of four free-throw attempts.
"We struggled moving the ball offensively and attacking the rim," Dombrow said. "Campbell got a lot of fouls off attacking, so we thought that we need to do the same thing (to Tigard). So just getting to the hoop and dishing and moving the ball on offense was key. They are all great players and great shooters. You can't leave any of them alone."
"We just had to figure a way to lock down Campbell and Dani Lyons because they had most of their points so that was our main focus, and on offense, it was just getting to the basket and getting fouls because the foul count was a little bit off," Vonleh said.
"Just making it to the Chiles Center is a big deal," West Linn senior Katie Schoenborn said. "My first two years, we didn't make it here so it's a really big deal, even just being in the top eight of the state."
Other players on the Tigard team include freshman Anna Follett, sophomore Rachel Denham, freshman Avery Alderman, junior Gabryelle Ziglinski, sophomore Avery Croxton, junior Kassiah Moore, junior Emily Paulson and sophomore Rachel Billings.
Jason Ashley, Mallory Goldammer, Erica Hansen and Heidi DeHaan are Tigard's assistant coaches.
Other players on the West Linn team include freshman Isabella McVicker, freshman Alana Molden, freshman Olivia McVicker, junior Vanessa Viuhkola, sophomore Jordyn Selleh, freshman Campbell Sheffield, freshman Audrey Kehoe and senior Riley Drullinger.
Brooke Cates is the Lions' head coach, with assistants Alex Soberanis, John VanAcker and Brian Hughes.
Miles Vance, of Pamplin Media Group, contributed to this story