West Linn deals with early season rust but wins Tip-Off Classic
by: Vern Uyetake, Nikki Aden powers to the hoop for a lay-up in Tuesday’s 63-50 victory over Forest Grove. Aden had 19 points and six rebounds in the game. Over the weekend, Aden earned the MVP award during West Linn’s Tip-Off Classic. Aden was the tournament’s leading scorer and helped the Lions to victories over Sandy and Newberg.

It didn't come easily but, in the end, the West Linn girls pulled won their annual Tip-Off Classic for the third year in a row.

The Lions struggled in a pair of games against Sandy and Newberg but had enough in the tank to pull out victories in each contest. Both games had a similar look. West Linn found itself in foul trouble and struggled shooting the ball and rebounding.

However, the team's up-tempo style caused just enough problems for its opponents to come out on top.

In West Linn's opening game against a young Sandy team, the Lions overcame a slew of turnovers to pull away in the second half 52-28.

The Lions' defense was solid for much of the game, forcing 36 turnovers but poor execution on offense allowed the Pioneers to stay in the game.

'Sandy played a scrappy game. The kids' heads weren't really into it tonight,' coach Glen Lee said.

Guards Nikki Aden and Rosetta Adzasu handled most of the scoring load early on for West Linn. Aden had nine first-half points and Adzasu added eight and four steals.

Adzasu found herself in foul trouble early in the third quarter and the Lions struggled from the field but the defense forced nine turnovers in the stanza and held Sandy to just seven points.

'We played too aggressively on defense and missed too many two-footers tonight,' Lee said.

In fact the Pioneers only scored nine points in the entire second half and had 19 turnovers.

With a 12-point lead heading into the final period, Aden took the team on her shoulders. She had seven points in the quarter, two rebounds and four steals as the Lions coasted to victory.

Aden had 16 points, six rebounds and six steals in the game.

That win set up a showdown with Newberg in the championship. The Tigers were seeking some revenge for last season. West Linn ended Newberg's year in the second round of the playoffs.

The Tigers proved to be a formidable opponent. The deficit was never more than a few points for the entire game as the Lions won 53-47.

Newberg started quickly and handled West Linn on the boards to take a quick lead.

Jennifer Kimbrow had a solid opening half for the lions. She poured in seven points in the first quarter and a Keri Robinson basket gave the Lions their first lead of the game at 18-17.

'Jennifer stepped up big-time for us tonight. Her and Emily (Locke) did a lot of little things for us,' Lee said.

West Linn held a slim two-point lead at the end of the first quarter but couldn't shake Newberg. Kimbrow continued her strong play as she ended the half with 11 points and four rebounds.

'Our posts are doing a great job for us. They had their work cut out for them,' Aden said.

Aden, who missed her first four shots from the field and was playing with a debilitating cold, rallied to hit her next three shots and closed the half with 10 points.

'Nikki was sicker than a dog tonight but she was a trooper. She showed a lot of senior leadership,' Lee said.

But six turnovers and more foul trouble allowed the Tigers to hang around as West Linn clung to a 36-33 lead at the break.

The third quarter was sloppy by both teams as the Lions and Tigers combined for 14 turnovers and the pace of the game slowed dramatically.

'I thought we did better with our communication (against Newberg). We still need to stay out of foul trouble but we're getting better,' Aden said.

Newberg succeeded in shutting down West Linn's inside game, double-teaming Kimbrow for much of the quarter.

A three from Aden and a basket by Emily Wattman-Turner were all the Lions could muster on offense in the stanza but their five-point output was one point better than Newberg's.

The Lions played their best basketball of the tournament early in the fourth quarter. Adzasu who, once again, saw limited action because of foul trouble turned a pair of steals in to baskets as West Linn built an eight-point lead.

'We're still not running like we should but we're starting to convert at the end of the fast break,' Lee said.

Adzasu had eight points and three steals in the period.

However, poor foul shooting nearly did the Lions in. Newberg closed the gap to three points with less than 30 seconds to play. West Linn hit only two of seven free throws in the quarter.

But Adzasu broke the Tigers' press and dished to Wattman-Turner for a lay-up that sealed the victory for the Lions.

Aden was named the tournament's MVP while Emily Locke made the all-tournament team as the Lions' leading rebounder in the pair of games.

This is the fourth time in five years that the Lions have capture the Tip-Off Classic.

Grant, after being beaten decisively by Newberg in its opening game, rallied on Saturday to knock off Sandy and finish in third place.

Two Newberg players and a pair of Grant players were also made the all-tournament team which was announced following West Linn's championship victory.

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