The West Linn girls basketball team was determined to set the tone.
And the Lions — hosting Oregon City in both teams' Three Rivers League finale on Friday, Feb. 25 — did just that, blasting out to a 13-point lead at the end of the night's first quarter.
In the end, that fast start and some gritty play down the stretch helped West Linn carry the day, edging past the Pioneers 46-41 at West Linn High School.
"Especially on senior night, it's a big one for us. This one really sets us up going into playoffs," said West Linn senior guard Olivia McVicker, who finished with eight points (on 3 of 8 shooting from the field and a 2 of 5 day at the free throw line), along with five steals, three assists and three rebounds. "Oregon City always plays a great game against us, but it was good."
"I was a little nervous at first because when we beat them the first time, they really brought it," said freshman guard Allie Roden, who led her team with 13 points (on 5 of 8 shooting from the field, including one 3-pointer and a 2 of 2 day at the free throw line), along with five steals, two rebounds and one assist. "I knew they were going to want to come in and really want to win this one and … bring the energy, and they did a really good job of that."
With the win — the No. 8 Lions' fifth straight — West Linn finished the regular season at 12-2 in Three Rivers League play and 15-7 overall. No. 14 Oregon City, meanwhile, lost for just the second time in their final eight games and finished 10-4 in TRL play and 16-8 overall. Both teams will open the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs on March 2.
The Pioneers, who rallied from that early deficit to close within three points in both the third and fourth quarters, left proud of their efforts despite the loss.
"We just needed to fight to the end and keep working together as a team," said sophomore guard Molly Miller, who led all scorers with 14 points (on 5 of 11 shooting from the field, including two 3-pointers and a 2 of 3 day at the foul line), along with three rebounds and one blocked shot. "The key was just giving our all and all our effort to win."
"We dug ourselves a hole in the first quarter, but we knew we could dig out ourselves out," said senior guard Kadyn Guelsdorf, who added nine points (on 3 of 6 shooting from the field, including one 3-pointer and a 2 of 2 day at the foul line), along with nine rebounds, two assists and one steal. "We just tried to work together as a team to overcome that and … we just wanted to bounce back from that (last) loss and work together."
In the Lions' dominant first quarter, West Linn got five points (including a 3-pointer) from Roden and another four from senior guard Alana Molden, while the West Linn defense kept Oregon City off the scoreboard for the first 3 minutes, 12 seconds of the game and limited the Pioneers to 3 of 9 shooting of the field while forcing six OC turnovers.
West Linn's lead crested at 19-6 when Roden took a pass from senior Isabella McVicker and scored inside with 14 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
But the Lions' hot start turned late-February cold in the second quarter. While the Pioneers edged back within six behind five Miller points (including a "three") and three foul shots from sophomore Samara Lugo, West Linn scored just four points in the period, hitting just 2 of 9 shots from the floor and turning the ball over five times.
After opening the second half with a 23-16 deficit, Oregon City continued its comeback in the third quarter, stitching together a 10-3 run to close within 29-26 when Miller — who added another five points in the frame — scored on a drive with 3:03 left in the period.
The Lions responded with a 13-8 stretch highlighted by three straight Roden hoops, a pair of baskets by senior Audrey Kehoe and three points from Olivia McVicker, with Kehoe's inside basket assisted by Molden extending the West Linn lead to 42-34 with 2:56 left in the game.
The Pioneers didn't fold, though. They got back-to-back hoops — including a "three" — from senior Anya Remsburg and a left-handed drive by Miller to close within 44-41 with 25 seconds left in the game.
From there, though, the Lions ran the clock down to six seconds, then got two Roden free throws to seal their win.
"We were in the same position last time we played them so it's something we've been working on the whole season, just to keep calm and collected," Roden said. "We have to know that we can keep our energy up and continue to keep the lead the entire game."
"At halftime, we changed our mindset," Guelsdorf said. "We knew our offense would come from our defense so we just had to shift it and rattle them on defense and I think we tried our best to do that. I think we never lost sight of the fact that we could have won that game."
For the game, Kehoe scored six points (on 3 of 8 shooting from the field), along with nine rebounds, two steals and one assist, while West Linn senior Campbell Sheffield scored six points (on 1 of 5 shooting from the field and a 4 of 4 day at the foul line), along with two rebounds.
For OC, senior Grace Leasure scored four points (on 2 of 6 shooting from the field), along with eight rebounds, one assist and one steal, while Remsburg added seven points (on 3 of 10 shooting including one 3-pointer), along with two assists, one rebound and one blocked shot.Â
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