It wasn't a work of art, but what No. 1Â Beaverton's 39-28 win over No. 5Â BarlowÂ in a 6A nonleague girls basketball game Wednesday night lacked in aesthetics, it made up for in substance.
"I said to them when I got in the locker room, 'It was ugly, it wasn't pretty, but it was gutsy,'" Beavers coachÂ Kathy NaroÂ said. "We're going to have to win games like this."
All night, host Beaverton (2-0) struggled to get separation against the Bruins (2-1). But the Beavers were able to avert any last-minute drama but finishing off the game with a 9-0 run, getting four points each from junior postÂ Lainey SpearÂ and senior guardÂ Emily RiceÂ in the last 2:02.
"Some players hit some big shots, and we kind of came together and worked hard to finish the game off," Beaverton junior guardÂ Zoe BorterÂ said.
The 6-foot-1 Spear scored a game-high 14 points and Borter and Rice added 11 and eight points, respectively, for the Beavers. Barlow got eight points from junior guardÂ Kennedie Shuler.
The Bruins, coming off a 51-40 win over No. 8Â Mountainside, were eager for the test against Beaverton. But they struggled to make shots, shooting 12 of 42 from the field, including 2 of 21 from three-point range.
"We got the open looks we wanted, they just weren't dropping," Barlow coachÂ Nick HudsonÂ said.
The Bruins led 20-17 in the third quarter before the Beavers took the lead for good. Spear and junior point guardÂ Madison NaroÂ hit back-to-back three-pointers and Naro scored on a drive to put Beaverton ahead 25-20.
Barlow pulled to within 30-28 with 2:20 left on a drive by seniorÂ Lindsay Barden. But Spear answered with two free throws, then came up with a steal, and Naro found Rice for a basket to make it 34-28 with 1:22 remaining. The Beavers made 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute to seal the win.
"I was proud that it was a gutsy win, and there was some adversity, and we hung in there with each other," Kathy Naro said. "Lots to build on."
Despite their poor shooting, the Bruins were able to push the Beavers.
"I think we had them on their heels for part of the game," Hudson said. "We just missed a few key shots here and there that were wide open. It's encouraging to know that we can hang with a top team. Discouraging that we didn't get the win."
Kathy Naro was impressed with Barlow.
"They're a really good team," she said. "They move, they cut, they handle it. They're tough to guard because they all do things. Barlow's going to be there."
Spear appears primed to have a breakout season. She scored 25 points in the Beavers' season-opening 63-33 win atÂ LakeridgeÂ and was the catalyst against Barlow, showing off her shooting by making two three-pointers and all four of her free throws.
"Her shot has improved tremendously," Kathy Naro said of Spear. "She's a real athlete. She can attack the basket and she can stop on a dime. She can guard any position, she's so fast and strong. She's really improved. So I'm really excited about her."
Spear said she has "more to show."
"A lot of off-the-dribble stuff," Spear said. "And we've been working on my finishes, that I don't think I really showed tonight. So I'm excited to get going with that, and show people my post moves."
Said Borter: "Lainey is really athletic. She's a mismatch against a lot of players. You put a post on her, she can go by her. And she can also score down low."
The Beavers lost in the semifinals in 2018 and 2019 before the major disappointment of 2020, when they had arguably the best team in school history and reached the semifinals only to have the 6A tournament canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
This season's team doesn't have the same high-end talent, but it can build around Spear, Borter and Madison Naro, all of whom saw playing time as freshmen in 2019-20. Is a title run realistic?
"I think we do have a shot," Spear said. "I think we can be really good. We can definitely make a run. With the leadership we have, and some new people, I think we can go really far."
Jerry Ulmer is a writer for OSAA Today.
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