Lady Axes chop down Beaverton in opener

Beaverton pushes talented South Eugene hard down the stretch before falling 67-58
by: Miles Vance GOING UP STRONG — Beaverton’s Alexis Montgomery goes up between South Eugene’s Lizzy Severson (left) and Jessica Shivers in the Class 6A state tournament on March 10.

PORTLAND - It had been nine long years since the Beaverton girls basketball team had reached the state tournament, but South Eugene was in no mood to welcome the Beavers with open arms in their opener last week.

The Lady Axes, champions of Special District 1 - South, raced out to a 13-point lead early in their March 10 quarterfinal against the Beavers at the Rose Garden, and tried their very best to leave Beaverton in their dust after that.

But the Beavers steadied themselves in the second quarter, held on through the third, and cut their deficit to seven in the fourth quarter before finally falling 67-58. For Beaverton, the Metro League runner-up, the loss dropped its record to 21-7, while South Eugene improved to 23-5.

'It was our first time here in nine years, and South Eugene has been here so they knew what to expect,' said Beaverton senior post Marissa Rakestraw, who finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. 'When we came out here, we were a little unsure what to expect and it showed in the first quarter.'

'In the beginning, we came out kind of slow and they had more intensity,' added Beaverton senior guard Nicole Hartzog, who had 19 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals. 'In the first half, we just didn't make our field goals, and they made a bunch of theirs.'

The Lady Axes' fast start came in part due to their defense, which forced seven first-quarter Beaver turnovers and held Beaverton to 2-of-12 shooting from the field. Offensively, South Eugene was just as tough, getting eight first-quarter points from Ellen Cook, two hoops from Jessica Shivers and a three-pointer by Lizzy Severson to take a 17-6 lead at the end of the opening quarter.

The Beavers steadied themselves in the second quarter, though, got Rakestraw and Hartzog going offensively and moved within 29-23 when Hartzog knocked down two fouls shots with 1:30 left in the half. South Eugene closed the half with a late 'three' to lead 32-23 at halftime, but Rakestraw hit three straight shots from the floor and scored eight points in the period for Beaverton, while Hartzog added six.

The Lady Axes closed the third quarter with a flurry too, putting together a 10-4 run in the final three minutes - including a Jessie Brabender 'three' with 10 seconds to go - and carried a 53-38 lead in to the fourth quarter.

But the Beavers rallied in the final quarter, their defense holding the Lady Axes to just 1-of-4 shooting in the period while forcing four turnovers. On offense, Hartzog drilled a 'three' and Rakestraw two foul shots to cut the deficit to 55-43, and Alexis Montgomery scored four straight points to bring her team within 55-47 with 3:53 left to play.

Next, Montgomery hit one foul shot and Rakestraw rebounded the ensuing miss and scored, and Montgomery hit a jumpshot from the right baseline to make it 63-56 with 1:11 to go. But Roberts hit 4-of-6 free throws in the final minute to finally secure her team's win.

'In the second half, we started to play more of our basketball, hustling and getting back on defense,' Rakestraw said. 'If we would have started that way, it would have been a closer game and we would have a chance to win in the end.'

'We played harder in the second half, started running our trap, and we got a lot of fast breaks off of that,' Hartzog added. 'Once we get all the butterflies out, we know we can play with anybody in the state.'

Montgomery had eight points and four assists in the loss, while Olivia Cook added six points, two rebounds and two assists. Ellen Cook led South Eugene with 27 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals, Roberts added 15 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and Shivers had 11 points and eight rebounds.