Great achievements don't come easily.
And they rarely come without a few challenges.
The West Linn girls basketball team ran into one of those challenges last week when Oregon City knocked them from the ranks of the unbeaten in Three Rivers League play.
But the Lions — who are definitely aiming for great achievements this season — came back strong on Friday, Jan. 31, routing St. Mary's 78-36 to knock the Blues from the ranks of the TRL's unbeaten.
"While the loss to Oregon City was difficult, it was also just one game and was definitely a wakeup call that we needed," said West Linn coach Brooke Cates. "Friday, we responded by playing extremely well against a very talented St. Mary's team."
With the win over the Blues — West Linn's seventh in its past eight games — the Lions (third-ranked in the Class 6A coaches poll and third in the OSAA power rankings) improved to 5-1 in Three Rivers League play and 11-5 overall. St. Mary's (ranked ninth in the coaches poll and seventh in the OSAA power rankings) fell to 5-1 in TRL play and 13-4 overall.
West Linn established its dominance right from Friday's opening tip-off, dropping 27 first-quarter points on the Blues and racing out to a commanding 27-11 lead. The Lions pounded the ball inside to junior post Aaronette Vonleh and she responded impressively, pouring in 11 of her game-high 29 points, while junior guard Audrey Roden knocked down two 3-pointers and scored eight points, and junior guard Peyton Shelstad added two "threes" of her own and scored six in the period.
"(The Oregon City loss) motivated us a lot to come back and decide to play as a team, because we were lacking that on Tuesday," said Vonleh, who hit 13 of 16 shots from the field. "I think it was good for us, because when you lose, you learn what you need to do to win."
"When we play together, we are a tough matchup for any team in the state," Cates said.
The Lions kept the hammer down in the second quarter, outscoring St. Mary's 18-10 in the frame and extending their lead to 45-21 at the half. Vonleh tacked another six points onto her total while sophomore guard Alana Molden broke free for six of her 12 points.
Both Shelstad and sophomore guard Olivia McVicker notched three assists each setting up Vonleah in the first half.
"Tonight, we were all just playing for each other," Vonleh said. "Nobody was playing for themselves. And we all just had a lot of energy so we were able to move the ball around and have better shot selection."
St. Mary's senior wing/forward Marley Johnson — she led the Blues with 15 points — tried to keep her team close with 11 first-half points (including three 3-pointers — two in the second quarter), but on this night, it just wasn't enough.
West Linn went back at it hard at the start of the third period and put together a 22-9 scoring edge in the frame that extended its lead to 67-30 and essentially ended the game. Vonleh scored her final 12 points in the period, Roden had another six and Shelstad four to leave the Blues behind.
For the game, Vonleh led all scorers with 29, Roden added 18, Molden 12 and Shelstad 10. Johnson led the Blues with 15 and sophomore wing Abby Graham 11, but no other St. Mary's player had more than three.
Next up, the Lions play at Lake Oswego at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 5, then host Lakeridge 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7.
Cates said that she and her West Linn team are looking forward to what lies ahead.
"I am excited for the second half of league play as we continue to work hard, play for each other and have a lot of fun," she said.
— Jerry Ulmer of OSAAtoday contributed to this story
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