West Linn shakes off a slow start to get a key win vs. Lake Oswego

TIDINGS PHOTO: MILES VANCE - West Linn's Daria Ruediger (left) battles Lake Oswego's Kali Drango for a rebound during the Lions' 60-53 victory on Tuesday at West Linn High School.The Lake Oswego girls basketball team blew into West Linn like a gust of cold winter wind on Tuesday.

But the Lions fell on the Lakers like a ton of snow, rallying from an early seven-point deficit to win 60-53 at West Linn High School. The victory marked the Lions' 16th straight victory over Lake Oswego, a streak dating back almost eight years to the Lakers' last win, a 38-29 victory on Feb. 13 of 2009.

"We had a slow start at the beginning of the game, but our coach switched up the rotation a little bit and we kind of got it figured out and started playing better after that," said West Linn junior point guard Lexi Pritchard, who led all scorers with 23 points after going 7 of 14 from the field (with three three-pointers) and 6 of 9 from the free throw line.

"Once our bench got in it, we played together. We all started to pass to each other. It was way better," said Lions junior guard Lizzy Herrick, who added 10 points on 3 of 6 shooting from the floor (with one "three") and 3 of 6 at the foul line. "I thought we played tough."

The win lifted the seventh-ranked Lions' Three Rivers League record to 4-1 (7-5 overall) and kept them within a half-game of league-leading Tigard. With the loss, No. 19 Lake Oswego fell to 2-2 in league play and 7-4 overall.

"We haven't beaten West Linn in (almost eight) years so the rivalry is extremely real and it's extremely personal," said Lake Oswego senior guard Morgan McKinney, who led her team with 17 points after hitting 4 of 8 shots from the field and 9 of 12 free throws. "It's really important that we stay together and communicate with each other throughout the whole game. I think that's something that we let slip on us."

"I just think we got a little too comfortable in the second quarter and they made their push," added sophomore guard Katy Gilbert, who added 13 points on 5 of 10 shots from the floor (with two three-pointers) and 1 of 1 foul shots. "I think we just needed to execute our plays better."

That said, the Lakers came out hot, hitting their first three shots (two by Sydney Erikstrup) and grabbing a 6-0 lead just 46 seconds into the contest.

The Lions didn't get on the scoreboard until Kennedi Byram finished a drive 3:43 into the contest and still trailed 9-2 when Gilbert drilled a "three" 23 seconds later.

But West Linn didn't panic. Instead, the Lions bolstered their defense, settled their offense and closed the quarter on a 10-2 run that took just 2:46 off the clock.

Herrick started that run with a three-pointer assisted by Kennedy Fulcher, Pritchard followed with a "three" of her own later in the period, Fulcher scored on a cut to the hoop set up by Herrick, and Pritchard closed the deal when she scored at the end of the fast break in the final second of the quarter to give her team a 12-11 edge.

While the Lakers saw their lead go away, they certainly did not, battling the Lions through a 14-14 second quarter that saw Laura Erikstrup hit 5 of 6 shots in the period and score all 10 of her points.

On the other side of the ledger, Pritchard buried two more three-pointers and scored seven points while Byram added another "three" to keep West Linn ahead 26-25 at halftime.

The Lakers could not keep pace in the third quarter, though, hitting just 2 of 11 shots from the field and turning the ball over five times as the Lions pulled out to a 41-30 lead.

Byram scored three straight early in the period, Fulcher hit twice from the field and the Lions made 5 of 7 foul shots to pull ahead.

The Lions extended their lead to 14 — when Byram banked home a lofted left-hand shot in the key with 5:57 left in the game — at 49-35, but the Lakers didn't go away easily.

Gilbert scored 10 of her 13 points in the final frame, and Morgan followed suit with 13 of her 17 — but on this day, it wasn't enough.

Pritchard and Byram both hit three times from the field for the Lions in the fourth quarter, Pritchard scoring nine points in the period and Byram six to keep the Lakers at arm's length.

"It feels really good. They're a good team," Pritchard said. "They brought it, but we started getting to the boards more, playing better defense and we knew who we needed to stop."

"We just let it completely slip in the third period when they went on their run," McKinney said. "It was a very large one and props to them for that — we just couldn't adjust."

Byram added 14 points — she went 6 of 9 from the floor (with one three-pointer) and 1 of 2 at the foul line — and Fulcher eight in the win.

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