West Linn girls basketball battles past Cleveland 56-55, wins Class 6A state tourney berth
It was the word of the day for the West Linn girls basketball team Saturday, March 5, and the Lions needed it.
No. 8 West Linn, hosting No. 24 Cleveland at West Linn High School in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs, needed that grit — along with toughness, resolve and more — down the stretch to hold off the Warriors, eventually winning 56-55 when senior wing Alana Molden hit a layin under pressure with just over 1 second left on the clock.
"I'm just so proud of us," said Molden, who finished with nine points (on 4 of 10 shooting from the field and a 1 of 6 day at the foul line), along with eight rebounds, two steals and two assists. "We knew Cleveland was going to be hard, and it obviously was, but we held on."
"It was a tough win, but we came out with it because we had to fight for it to the very last second and we did a good job of playing hard and everyone did their roles," said senior wing Campbell Sheffield, who scored 10 points (on 3 of 5 shooting from the field, including two 3-pointers and a 2 of 4 day at the free throw line), along with two rebounds and one assist.
"Props to Cleveland — they battled hard all game — but in the end, I think our defense won us this game," added West Linn senior post Audrey Kehoe, who added nine points (on 3 of 7 shooting from the field and a 3 of 5 day at the free throw line), along with 12 rebounds, two assists, one blocked shot and one steal. "That's what we've been saying all season — have grit and you'll win the game."
Next up, eighth-ranked West Linn will face top-ranked Beaverton — a 37-22 winner over Westview on Saturday — in the quarterfinals of the Class 6A state tournament at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, March 10, at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus.
"We just have to do what we've been doing this whole season and lift each other up and continue to stay on this high," Molden said.
"It's very emotional," Kehoe said. "I'm just so happy that we were able to (get to the state tournament). I've been playing with the seniors since the fifth grade and it's just such a happy moment for all of us and I'm just so excited."
With the win — West Linn's seventh straight — the Lions improved to 17-7 overall after finishing second in the Three Rivers League. No. 24 Cleveland, meanwhile, lost for the fifth time in its final six games and ended its season at 16-11 after finishing fourth in the Portland Interscholastic League.
"We just came into it wanting to play free and fun," said Cleveland sophomore Kamakila Waiwaiole, who scored 10 points (on 4 of 10 shooting from the field and a 2 of 4 day at the free throw line), along with four steals, four rebounds and two steals. "This group of seniors was very special to all of us, so no matter what, we wanted to make this count for something."
"Obviously, we wish we were still playing, but … (we) went out fighting and it was a great way to end, even if it wasn't the result we wanted," said sophomore guard Addy Huss, who led all scorers with 23 points (on 8 of 15 shooting from the field, including four 3-pointers and a 3 of 6 day at the foul line), along with nine rebounds, two steals and one assist.
Saturday's game was a battle throughout, with the Lions leading 18-16 at the end of the first quarter after grabbing a 7-0 lead at the start of the contest. In the second quarter, the Warriors had the biggest lead of the period at 30-27 before falling behind 32-30 at the half. And in the third quarter, West Linn pushed ahead 39-33 before settling for a 41-41 tie entering the fourth period.
That fourth quarter, however, was an animal all its own. Over the final 5 minutes, 5 seconds of the contest, there were two ties and seven lead changes, with West Linn leading by three points three times — the final time at 49-46 when West Linn senior Isabella McVicker hit one foul shot and Kehoe rebounded McVicker's miss on the second free throw and scored on a reverse with 3:50 left in the game.
But Huss took a pass from senior Sadie Kloeppel and buried a "three" to tie the game at 49-49, and four possessions later, Kloeppel made a reverse spin into the lane and scored for a 51-50 Warrior lead with 1:10 left in the contest.
The remaining seconds provided a tense back and forth — not to mention five more lead changes — before Molden's last-second layin sealed the West Linn victory. That stretch included two Kehoe foul shots, a Huss drive, a basket from West Linn freshman Allie Roden, two Huss free throws, and finally, Molden's winning basket.
On the game-winning play, West Linn senior Olivia McVicker passed the ball to senior Isabella McVicker on the left wing and she hit Molden near the basket for the winning shot over two Cleveland defenders.
"I honestly didn't even know it went in," Molden said. "I was just focused on how good of a pass Isabella made."
"I had confidence she was going to make that shot, and she did it," Kehoe said, "right off the glass and it went in."
On their end of the court, the Warriors left proud of their efforts in the defeat.
"I think we all wanted to make it really special for the seniors and just really play in their honor … because they've (meant) so much to this program," Huss said. "They've really lifted it up to the program it is today, and we hope to continue that next year."
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