The West Linn girls basketball team doesn't know what the end of its 2021 season will look like, but it's determined to make it better than the end of 2020.
The Lions — who got upset in the second round of last year's playoffs and missed the Class 6A state tournament — showed that determination on Wednesday, June 2, when they muscled past Oregon City 75-33 at West Linn High School.
"Since ... we ended (last) season not the way we wanted to, we had a lot of motivation going into this year so we're all just really trying our best," said West Linn senior Aaronette Vonleh, a University of Arizona commit who led the Lions with 30 points on 13 of 17 shooting from the floor and a 4 of 4 day at the foul line, along with 12 rebounds and two assists. "It won't be a real state championship, but we're trying to get the same type of feeling."
"I'm so happy about the season because for a while, it was up in the air," said senior point Cami Fulcher, who finished with 18 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the floor (with four 3-pointers), eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals. "I'm just thankful to be on the court with these girls."
With the win, the team's fourth straight, the Lions improved to 5-0 in the Three Rivers League and 5-1 overall. Oregon City, meanwhile, dropped its second straight game and fell to 2-3 in TRL play and 2-3 overall.
Despite the loss, the Pioneers appreciated the chance to compete against one of the state's best teams and vowed to improve from the experience.
"I think when you play a team like that, it definitely helps you improve as a whole team," said Oregon City junior point guard Emily Billings, who had two steals and one assist in the loss. "It just helps us to learn from our mistakes so next time we know what to do against them."
"We definitely worked hard out there and that's what you have to do against a team like this," added junior guard Anya Remsburg, who finished with six points on 3 of 8 shooting along with one assist and one rebound. "I think we did that, but we're still improving. We (have to) give it our all and we need to do that for sure."
It took the Lions a little while to get going in the first quarter, but once they got started, they really took off. West Linn led just 6-2 midway through the opening period, but finished the quarter on a 13-4 run over the final 4 minutes, 21 seconds of the frame to push ahead 19-6.
Fulcher hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions late in the quarter, and Isabella McVicker drilled a "three" of her own with two seconds left in the period off a pass from her sister, Olivia McVicker.
Vonleh, a 6-foot, 3-inch post, added six points in the first quarter, then really caught fire in the second. In the second period alone, Vonleh hit 6 of 7 shots from the floor and two foul shots for 14 points, along with six rebounds and two assists. Three of her scores came on fast breaks — she had six fast break baskets in the game — to highlight an overlooked aspect of her game.
"It's been really fun this year because I wasn't that kind of player last year, but I've been working on getting stronger and faster so I could be able to have that kind of impact," Vonleh said.
Along with five points from Fulcher — including another 3-pointer — the Lions' lead ballooned to 46-18 at halftime.
"I think we're working really well together and we're really pushing the ball so we're getting a lot of fast breaks," Fulcher said. "We've been working on that in practice so I think it's translated really well into the game."
For Oregon City, junior guard Kadyn Guelsdorf tried to keep the Pioneers competitive with five points in the second quarter, while freshman guard Mollie Miller added a "three" late in the half.
While the Lions were already totally in control, they basically ended the conversation with a 23-4 scoring edge in the third period highlighted by another eight points from Vonleh and another seven from Fulcher.
For the Pioneers, Miller stepped up with a five-point fourth quarter and finished with eight points on 3 of 7 shooting (with one 3-pointer) and one foul shot, along with two rebounds and a steal. Guelsdorf led Oregon City with nine points on 3 of 7 shooting from the field and a 3 of 6 day at the foul line, along with one rebound and one steal.
"This is a year of improving," Remsburg said. "We know that we get two years together so we were just preparing for a really good team that has not lost a lot of kids where we came back with no seniors."
"I think we've improved as a whole. We play better together now," Billings added. "At first, we had no chemistry together, but now it's getting better as we get to spend more time with each other."
Isabella McVicker added eight points for West Linn on 3 of 4 shooting from the field (with two 3-pointers), along with two steals, two assists and one rebound. Senior Payton Shelstad didn't have a big scoring night with seven points, but added five rebounds, four steals and three assists.
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