After a buzzer-beater saves the Lions at Canby, West Linn hits 12 3s to break a decades-long regular season losing streak to OC

by: JAIME VALDEZ - West Linn's Courtney Landis, left, and Sidney Kolasinski celebrate after the Lions knocked off Oregon City at home Tuesday. The pair combined to drain six of West Linn's 12 3-pointers in the game. West Linn's girl's basketball is coming off one of its wildest and ultimately most rewarding weeks in the program's history. After getting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime in a 69-58 road victory over Canby, the Lions rode that jolt of energy into a thrilling come-from-behind win over state powerhouse Oregon City Tuesday 68-61.

The Lions previously knocked off the Pioneers in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs in 2012, snapping a 59-game losing streak. However, West Linn still hadn't snapped its regular season losing streak to Oregon City. And, with the leagues realigning next season, there were only two more opportunities to exact a little revenge.

That's exactly what West Linn did at home Tuesday, coming back from a 10-point second-half deficit to knock off the Pioneers and create a thrilling final five games in the loaded Three Rivers League.

West Linn showed early on that it was prepared for the Pioneers' signature full-court pressure and handled it admirably.

The Lions held an early lead but gave up the final five points of the first quarter to trail 16-15.

It was a 3-point shooting exhibition all evening as the teams combined to knock down 19 shots from behind the arc.

However, West Linn didn't fully heat up until late in the game.

The Lions were competitive with Oregon City for the entirety of the contest but trailed by six at the half.

Oregon City was on the verge of pulling away midway thorugh the third quarter. With just under three minutes to play in the period, the Pioneers grabbed their largest lead of the game at 46-36.

However, the Lions whittled the lead down to four points heading into the fourth quarter.

West Linn continued to chip away, getting 3-pointers from Caitlin Malvar and Taylor Enders-Smith.

Trailing 59-56, Ashley Johnson drained her third 3-pointer of the game to tie the score. Then, after a turnover, Sidney Kolasinski knocked down her fourth 3-pointer, giving West Linn its first lead since the opening quarter.

Oregon City had opportunities to tie the game or even take the lead, getting the game to one point with 1:26 to play but missed its final five shots from the field.

Meanwhile, the Lions calmly iced the game from the foul line. Johnson knocked down 4-of-6 attempts from the line and Genna Hughes sank two clutch foul shots.

Five different players scored in double figures for the Lions, led by 13 from Kolasinski.

Kolasinski also played hero for the Lions in their thrilling win against Canby.

West Linn led for almost all of regulation but briefly appeared destined to suffer a bitter defeat. The Lions only trailed for a brief moment in the second quarter but the team struggled to nurse its lead in the final minutes of regulation.

After a slew of turnovers, Canby took over the ball with 11 seconds remaining in a tie game. The Cougars got a wide open corner 3-pointer with five seconds left and the clock still running.

West Linn quickly inbounded the ball and threw it across half-court. The ball was bobbled but then corralled by Kolasinski who heaved a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer that banked in.

That appeared to tie the game much to the chagrin of the Canby coaches and players who argued that Kolasinksi didn't get the shot off in time.

After a huddle at midcourt, the officials allowed the shot, sending the game to overtime.

West Linn grabbed a slim early lead in the extra period and then Johnson drained a college-length 3-pointer from the top of the key, her first of the game, giving the Lions a 62-56 edge.

“It's probably one of the wildest games I've played in,” Johnson said.

West Linn would then hit its free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

“Any time you win on the road in the TRL it's a huge win and Canby is a terrific team,” coach Lisa Griffith said.

Despite the rough final few minutes of regulation, it was one of West Linn's better performances of the season from start to finish.

The Lions opened the game focused and had little difficulty against Canby's stifling full-court press.

In fact, it was West Linn that gave Canby fits with defense, getting into passing lanes and coming up with three quick steals.

The Cougars were sloppy offensively, even turning the ball over on a pair of inbound passes and the Lions used an 11-2 run to grab the early lead.

However, Canby closed the quarter on a 7-0 run and cut the deficit to 17-15.

The Cougars shot the ball well for much of the game, which offset some of their turnovers and Canby grabbed the lead again at 21-20 early in the second stanza.

As the Lions failed to turn the ball over once against Canby's press, the Cougars called it off in the second quarter.

“We did a good job getting the ball to the middle and working it to our wings,” Johnson said.

Hughes had one of her best games of the year, playing terrific interior defense and crashing the offensive glass and converting put-backs.

She helped the Lions regain a 29-26 halftime lead and finished with 14 points.

In the third quarter, both teams traded 3-pointers early, getting a pair from point guard Malvar. The Lions started to open up the lead again, establishing an inside game with Morgan Haskin. West Linn was also the more aggressive team all game long, getting Canby into foul trouble and getting to the line at an impressive clip.

Johnson hit her first 10 free throws in the game and finished 12-14 from the stripe.

West Linn built a double-digit lead and was close to clinching the game but Canby closed with another late-quarter run and made it 49-43 with one period to play.

In the fourth quarter, Canby started getting the ball inside to its post and she brought the Cougars back, eventually tying the score at 51-51 with less than four minutes to play.

West Linn would lead 53-52 with 2:30 remaining and then tried to control possession, passing the ball around the perimeter while bleeding the clock.

But Canby's heavy pressure gave the Lions problems, forcing four turnovers in a two-minute span. The Cougars couldn't take full advantage though and only mustered one point in that period.

“I think we're still learning how to close games out. It's still a new system to these girls,” Griffith said.

West Linn would turn the ball over once more on the inbounds pass with 11 seconds left and it was nearly a fatal mistake. However, Kolasinski's heave bailed the Lions out.

The Lions are now 4-1 in league, ranked sixth in the state and are tied with Clackamas and Oregon City atop the TRL.

West Linn will travel to play Clackamas Tuesday in yet another crucial league tilt.

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