TRL appears tough as nails

The league's top five teams are off to a 16-3 start

If preseason play means anything, the Three Rivers League is once again going to be a power in Class 6A high school girls basketball.

Through play Saturday, the top five teams in the six-team league had gone 16-3 in games with nonleague opponents.

Clackamas and Lakeridge were both 2-0, Oregon City and Lake Oswego sported 4-1 records. Canby was 3-1 and West Linn was 1-3.

Clackamas' girls team, which finished runner-up to Jesuit a year ago, has a lot of new faces. But the Cavaliers appear to have reloaded. They've looked sharp in their first two games, a 59-50 win over Lincoln and a 62-46 win over 2011 state quarterfinalist Beaverton.

The Cavaliers had a lot of balance in last Friday's win over the Beavers, led by 5-10 senior post Natasha Rowland (12 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals), 6-0 junior post Shelby Vasconcellos-Mattocks (11 points, 6 rebounds), 5-7 junior guard Deeshyra Thomas (10 points, 4 steals), 5-10 sophomore post Erica Pagano (8 points) and 5-7 senior wing Lexie Govert (8 points).

The Cavaliers took charge of the game from the outset, building an 18-8 lead in the first quarter and a 38-23 advantage by halftime.

'We had a game-plan to try to keep the ball out of the hands of their playmaker, Alexis Montgomery,' said Clackamas first-year head coach Todd Lane. 'Deeshyra did a great job on her in the half court….'

It wasn't until the fourth quarter that the Cavaliers put Lincoln away in their Dec. 7 season opener with the Cardinals.

'If we'd shot better, it wouldn't have been close,' said Lane.

Lane's Cavaliers found the mark on only 17-of-60 (.283) shots from the floor.

Clackamas 5-9 sophomore wing Sydney Azorr made two crucial baskets in the closing minutes to put the Cavaliers up by five. Rowland then came through with clutch free throw shooting down the stretch to put the Cardinals away.

Vasconcellos-Mattocks (18 points, 7 rebounds), Rowland (12 points) and Azorr (12 points, 7 rebounds) headed the offense.

Rowland was a terror on defense, stealing the sphere eight times. Hana Watari, a 5-7 junior point guard, had six points and four steals.

Lane lauded reserves Govert, Pagano, [5-8 senior] Samantha Gutwig and [5-4 sophomore] Kaitlyn Reiner for their play late in the second quarter when he was resting his starters.

'We're young and inexperienced, but we're getting better every day,' Lane said, following the Lincoln game. 'We've still got a lot of work to do, but I liked our effort. We played hard the whole game.'

Oregon City, which returns a good nucleus of players from last year's team that placed third at state, enters this season ranked No. 1 in the state.

Oregon City lost 62-53 on Friday to Hawaii state champion Konawaena. But the Pioneers have handled four other preseason opponents, defeating 2011 6A quarterfinalist St. Mary's (73-62), Battle Ground (79-24), Mid-Pacific Institute, HI (63-36) and Iolani, HI (63-54).

Junior point guard Montana Walters (21 points, three 3-pointers, 4 assists), 6-0 junior post Johanna Paine (15 points, 11 rebounds) and 5-6 senior wing Jade Lowery (11 points) led the attack at St. Mary's.

Junior post Catelyn Preston (12 points) headed a balanced effort at Battle Ground.

Paine lit up the scoreboard for 28 points in the rout of Mid-Pacific, and she headed the effort with 16 points in the loss to Konawaena.

Konawaena was led by Washington State recruits Emalia Galdeira (17 points) and Dawnyelle Awa (13 points).

'Not having [5-8 junior wing] Jenae Paine was tough,' Oregon City coach Kurt Guelsdorf said, following the loss to Konawaena. 'They packed the inside and we weren't able to hit from the outside early on.'

Guelsdorf said that Jenae Paine, a second-team all-league selection as a sophomore, is out with an injury.

Other area girls basketball teams are off to pretty good start.

La Salle Prep entered play this week with a 4-1 record, with wins over De La Salle (69-38), Elmira (69-54), Central (51-39) and Stayton (52-45), and a 50-40 loss to Valley Catholic.

Gladstone (2-2) opened play last week with convincing wins over Yamhill-Carlton (59-43) and over Astoria (59-40).

The Tri-Valley Conference had four teams ranked in the OSAA top 10 after last week's games - No. 2 Gladstone, No. 5 La Salle, No. 6 Madras and No. 9 Molalla.

Milwaukie is off to a 2-1 start, while Putnam coeds are 2-2.

The Mustangs have wins over Class 6A Centennial (49-35) and over Jefferson (69-30). Their loss was to Class 6A Lakeridge (74-61).

Putnam put two games in the win column last week, defeating Cleveland 49-39 and Wilson 56-29. Earlier losses were to Class 6A Aloha (55-39) and to Class 6A Reynolds (46-44).

Any one who takes Putnam for granted this season may be in for a big surprise. The Kingsmen could just as easily be 3-1, having lost to Reynolds on a 3-point shot as time wound down.

'I'm really impressed with how they've come together as a team,' said Putnam coach Amy Thomas. 'They have been able to balance having fun with playing hard, and they're playing with confidence. They believe they can win.'

Emily Lauder was a sparkplug in last week's wins. The 5-4 senior broke both games open with unconscious shooting from downtown.

Lauder scored 20 points and hit six 3-pointers in the 49-39 win at Cleveland and she scored 15 points, hitting five 3-pointers in Friday's 56-29 win over Wilson

She hit five 3-pointers in the second quarter of the Wilson game, when the Kingsmen out-scored their guests 22-10; she hit five treys in the third quarter of the Cleveland game, when the Kingsmen out-scored their hosts 24-9.

Senior point guard Ana Medero (13 points) joined Lauder in double figures in scoring in the Cleveland game. Medero (10 points) and 5-7 sophomore Kelsea Baton (10 points) both scored in double figures against Wilson.

Megan Atkinson, a 6-2 sophomore post, scored 12 points to lead the Kingsmen in the nailbiter with Reynolds.