The Wolves pull away from Lakeridge to get a 59-47 win in tourney opener
by: DAN BROOD UP FOR TWO — Tualatin senior post Taryn O’Neill (right) shoots over Lakeridge’s Ellee Daskalos. O’Neill had 12 points and 16 rebounds in the Wolves’ win.

LAKE OSWEGO - Prior to the start of the Nike Interstate Shootout, the Tualatin High School girls basketball team put in a week of hard work.

And, in Tuesday morning's tournament opener, the Timberwolves enjoyed the dividends of that hard work.

Tualatin, after falling behind early, came roaring back to score a 59-47 win over Lakeridge in a Les Schwab Bracket first-round game played at Lakeridge High School.

'That was pretty good,' said Tualatin senior wing Lexsi Searle, who had 11 points to go with eight rebounds and three assists in the win. 'This was the next step for us. We worked hard all week.'

'This game shows that all the work we've been doing is paying off,' added Tualatin senior post Taryn O'Neill, who had 12 points and 16 rebounds in the victory.

Lakeridge fell to 5-2 on the season at that point with the setback. Tualatin improved to 2-4 with the victory.

'This game, we were really in sync,' O'Neill said. 'We've been learning so many new things this year and it's all starting to come together.'

Still, Tualatin got off to a bit of a slow start in Tuesday's game, which started at 8:30 a.m. The Pacers sprinted out to a 10-3 lead following a three-pointer by sophomore Colleen Ellis coming with 4 minutes and 42 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Wolves, getting a pair of baskets by O'Neill and a last-second hoop on a drive to the basket by senior wing Hanna Thompson, cut the lead to 16-12 at the end of the first quarter.

Tualatin then stormed ahead in the second quarter. Senior guard Sydney Mendezona swished a three-pointer from the top of the circle to tie the game at 17-17 with 6:53 left in the period. The Wolves then took a 19-17 lead when O'Neill put in a layup off an assist from Searle with 5:45 remaining in the first half.

Sophomore post Jasmine Miller followed up with a layup of her own off an assist from junior post Savannah Heugly and Searle had a steal and layup to push the lead to 23-17 with 3:47 remaining in the period.

'We didn't want to have to come back at 8:30 tomorrow,' Searle said of the team's motivation behind the rally.

Tualatin got baskets from Thompson and O'Neill late in the quarter, both coming off passes from Miller, on its way to taking a 27-22 lead at the half.

The Wolves kept rolling in the third quarter. Junior wing Britta Hall connected on a three-pointer from the left side to start the period and O'Neill followed with a bucket on a drive to the hoop to up the margin to double digits, at 32-22, with 6:16 left in the quarter.

Searle all sank a three-point basket later in the period to help Tualatin take a 39-30 lead into the fourth quarter.

The Wolves then all but put the game away early in the final stanza.

Mendezona sank a three-pointer to start the period. Heughly then scored three straight points and, after Lakeridge got a free throw from senior Nicole Blizzard, Thompson buried a three-pointer to give Tualatin its biggest lead of the game, at 48-31, with 4:17 left in the contest.

Mendezona sank another three-pointer down the stretch, making the score 52-35 with 2:18 remaining.

Lakeridge got three-point baskets by Ellis and junior Ruby Taylor in the last 30 seconds of the contest to make the final score 57-49.

'(Tualatin coach Todd Jukkala) talked to us and said we needed to play with confidence,' O'Neill said. 'I think this will help us with that. Lakeridge is a good team, and playing good teams like this will help.'

'I think we have a better understanding now,' Searle said.

O'Neill, who had 11 of her 16 rebounds on the defensive end, helped the Wolves to a 58-26 advantage in rebounding in the contest. Searle, Hall and Miller each added eight rebounds apiece.

'We hit the boards pretty hard,' O'Neill said.

Mendezona had 10 points in the victory. Heugly scored eight and Thompson had seven.

Tualatin, as a team, shot at a 23-for-56 clip from the field.

The Timberwolves, with some strong defense, helped force Lakeridge into a 17-for-71 shooting performance.

Blizzard led all scorers with 15 points.

Tualatin was scheduled to face The Dalles-Wahtonka in a Les Schwab Bracket quarterfinal game on Wednesday. Results of that game weren't available when the Times went to press.

If the Wolves won on Wednesday, they'll play at 6:30 p.m. today (Thursday). If Tualatin lost on Wednesday, it will play at 3:30 p.m. today. The tournament runs through Friday.

The Wolves will open their Pacific Conference schedule Tuesday when they host McMinnville in a game starting at 7:15 p.m. at Tualatin High.

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