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Bulldogs persevere through injuries, lean on shooting to improve to 4-4 in Oregon West Conference

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn sophomore Mya Salinas was one of five Bulldog players to connect from long range in the team's 49-31 win over Sisters.PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn senior Willow Neshem was 3-of-9 from 3-point range, finishing with nine points in the Bulldogs' 49-31 win over Sisters.No Taiya, no problem.

Despite the Woodburn girls basketball program's second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, Taiya Kent, sidelined in the team's rematch against Sisters on Tuesday, the Bulldogs had no problem dispatching the visiting Outlaws.

Using a second-quarter barrage from long range, Woodburn pulled away from a tie game after the first quarter and went on to pick up a 49-31 home victory.

Knotted up at 8-8 after the opening eight minutes, the Bulldogs erupted for a 15-2 run courtesy of timely 3-point shots from Willow Neshem, Eliana Arechiga and Aria Kent. Neshem led the team with three triples on the night, as Woodburn took advantage of Sisters' defensive strategy to dare the Bulldogs to hit from deep.

"Sisters is always a hard game, because they do a triangle-and-two," Woodburn head coach Taylor Foster said. "So three girls are playing zone and two girls are playing man, and they let you shoot the ball. Even if you're a good-shooting team, that's really awkward when no one's guarding you."

The Bulldogs hit just 7-of-27 field goals from beyond the arc, but shot with enough volume to gradually distance themselves from the Outlaws over the course of the game. With Taiya Kent out since Woodburn's loss to Corbett on Saturday, Foster called on her reserves and younger players to fill the lost production.

Woodburn was also without fellow seniors Kiana Christiansen and Islie Flores, allowing Foster to experiment with her lineups and give players like Alexandra Sanarov, Marlene Hernandez Vivar, Nayeli Zepeda, Dulce Loya Lupian and Leslie Barajas-Contreras an opportunity to contribute in the team's penultimate home game of the season.

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Sophomore guard Aria Kent stuffed the stat sheet for the Bulldogs, finishing with 11 points, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals in the win.PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Junior guard Eliana Arechiga was one of nine Woodburn players to log at least one field goal and one rebound in the win over Sisters."I love that with Taiya out, we're getting a ton of bodies in," Foster said. "This game, last game and I think it's great getting experience for next season and a lot of girls are doing a lot of good things."

But the Outlaws would not go down quietly. Following Woodburn's run, Sisters knocked down three triples of their own to pull within 26-19 at halftime.

Coming out of the break, Neshem connected on another 3 to bring the lead back to double digits, and the two teams traded baskets for the remainder of the quarter.

Leading 36-27 heading into the fourth, Aria Kent took control with steady attacks in the paint, either drawing the defense in and kicking it to an open teammate or finishing at the rim. Kent finished with 11 points, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals. Neshem followed with nine points, while Zepeda and Briana Cruz each had five.

In total, 10 different players scored at least a field goal or pulled down a rebound in the win, which improved Woodburn to 4-4 against Oregon West opponents and 7-12 on the season. The victory gave the Bulldogs a sweep over the Outlaws (2-19, 0-9) on the season. Including Woodburn's two victories over Sweet Home (7-13, 1-8) earlier this year, this season marks the first time the Bulldogs have swept two league rivals since the OSAA went to six classifications in 2005-06.

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - With four games left in the regular season, Woodburn head coach Taylor Foster continues to tinker with the Bulldogs' playbook, building on this year's successful season as the program looks toward the coming summer season in June.With four games left in the regular season, Foster is looking to continue that success into the offseason and beyond. The Woodburn coach is not looking at the end of this season as the closing of a book, but merely the end of chapter.

"I'm looking at five seasons from now where are we at?" she said. "I'm looking at these four games as what does our program need to grow? I'm trying to milk it for all it's worth. What can we get better at? What can we put in our toolbox?"

While Taiya Kent, Neshem and Christiansen are among eight seniors that have contributed to the girls basketball team's best season in decades, the Bulldogs are flush with talent entering the program. With such a large senior class preparing to play its final games, Woodburn will have ample space on the roster for upcoming players to fill the ranks, and Foster wants to see the basketball program grow accordingly.

"We've been working on a new defense. We haven't used it yet and the season is pretty much over, but I still want to add a new defense, because I see that we need another defense in our toolbox," Foster said. "We're working on it, so the girls are even more comfortable with it when they start it in summer ball and the next season."

Woodburn plays next at Stayton (14-6, 6-3) on Friday, with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. The Bulldogs' final home game of the season is set for Tuesday, Feb. 18 against the Newport Cubs (8-12, 4-4).

WOODBURN 8 18 10 13 — 49

SISTERS 8 11 8 4 — 31


A. Kent 11, Neshem 9, Zepeda 5, Cruz 5, Salinas 4, Cabrera 4, Arechiga 3, Loya Lupian 2, Kalugin 2, Hernandez Vivar 2, Sanarov Ramirez 2


Cruz 7, Kalugin 6, A. Kent 6, Arechiga 4, Zepeda 4, Neshem 4, Barajas-Contreras 2, Cabrera 2, Loya Lupian 1, Salinas 1


A. Kent 7, Salinas 1, Cabrera 1, Hernandez Vivar 1, Neshem 1, Kalugin 1, Zepeda 1


A. Kent 5, Kalugin 2, Arechiga 2, Cruz 1, Hernandez Vivar 1

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