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Apollos get back to tourney

Sunset wins twice, secures first state tournament berth since 1993
by: JAIME VALDEZ, ON THE MOVE — Sunset’s Anna Johnson drives past Tigard’s Kelsey Kaelin during the Apollos’ 31-28 Class 6A state playoff win over at Tigard High School last Wednesday night.

Defense plus rebounding equals Chiles Center.

That's what Sunset girls basketball coach Bill Priester told his team and that's what the Apollos rode to the Class 6A state tournament after two state playoff victories

Sunset stymied host Tigard in a 31-28 first-round win last Wednesday, earning the Apollos a second-round home game and setting up Saturday's 47-36 win over Grants Pass for a spot at the Chiles Center.

'The girls knew they had a good chance of doing this,' Priester said. 'They came out real focused from the get-go.'

Determined to avoid the slow starts that sometimes haunted the team during its 18-8 season, Sunset played with a chip on its shoulder to earn the school's first state tourney berth since 1993.

'We had a lot of people against us,' senior guard Anna Johnson said after the win over Tigard. 'We wanted to prove them wrong.'

The Metro League's No. 3 seed made believers out of the Tigers in the first round game at Tigard High School. Sunset's patient offense and suffocating defense limited Tigard to a season-low scoring output.

'If the game was in the 50s or 60s, we wouldn't have won,' said Priester, who has led the Apollos to the postseason the past three seasons after a 12-year drought. 'I felt we'd be all right if we slowed it down and kept it in the 30s or 40s.'

Pestered by Sunset all game, Tigard didn't even get that after the Apollos made one last stand.

Sophomore post Samantha Potter's free throw put Sunset ahead 31-28 with 12 seconds left. After a timeout, Tigard tried but couldn't get an open look and was called for traveling in the final seconds.

'We knew it would be a close game,' said Apollo wing Alyssa Martin, who had a game-high 16 points. 'We needed to come out tough and ready to play.'

Sunset did just that and led 16-10 at halftime and 22-16 late in the third quarter. Guard Corinn Waltrip, who paced the Tigers with 12 points, swished a three-pointer with 3 minutes, 20 seconds left in the game to draw Tigard within a point at 26-25.

Johnson had a strong drive for a left-handed layin with 1:40 remaining and junior Laura Stanulis hit two free throws a minute later to bump the Apollos' lead to 30-25. Waltrip buried a deep 'three,' but Tigard didn't get another shot off.

'It was stressful, but we tried to treat it like practice,' Martin said. 'We tried to take our time and be careful with the ball.'

Both teams had trouble doing as much in the first quarter, each turning the ball over six times to set up the defensive struggle.

The Tigers came in averaging nearly 60 points per game, but had trouble with the Apollos' zone, which clamped down on Tigard's early efforts to get the ball inside.

'They were able to cover our shooters really well and we couldn't get the ball to the posts,' Waltrip said. 'We had trouble passing against their pressure.'

Sunset didn't have it much easier against a stout Tiger defense and trailed 8-5 through one quarter.

But the Tigers scored just once in the second period on a layin with 3:30 left for a 10-9 lead, and the Apollos closed the half on a 7-0 run and never trailed again.

Stanulis, who finished with eight points, hit a pair of jumpers and Martin's steal and fast break layin built a 16-10 halftime lead.

'Ten points in a half. We've done that to a couple teams, but it hasn't happened to us,' said Tigard coach Steve Naylor. 'I

give Bill a lot of credit. His girls worked hard.'

A pair of baskets drew the Tigers within 16-14. But Martin heated up, scoring Sunset's first 10 points of the second half and all six in the third quarter. She drained a jumper from the right baseline then buried a 14-footer for a 22-16 lead.

'In the second half, we held it and took our time,' Johnson said. 'We wanted to slow down the pace and make it our game.'

Tigard drew within a basket heading into the final frame on field goals by Waltrip and senior post Brittany Duty. Martin opened the fourth quarter with a deep field goal for a 24-20 lead and later rattled in a mid-range shot to make it 26-22.

Tigard closed the gap but Sunset held its ground and hung on to win.

Sunset 47, Grants Pass 36

The Apollos established control in the third quarter of their Saturday game against Grants Pass, the No. 4 seed out of the Southwest Conference, outscoring the Lady Cavers 13-6 to expand an 18-15 halftime lead and send them on to a 47-36 victory at Sunset High School.

Potter and Martin had 10 points apiece to pace Sunset, which outrebounded Grants Pass despite the presence of two 6-footers for the Lady Cavers.

'We were more aggressive and kept their big kids out of the game in the second half,' Priester said.

Sophomore Lexie Olson added eight points and Johnson and Stanulis each had six for the Apollos, who hit their free throws down the stretch to pull away. Sunset made 15-of-24 foul shots in the game, while Grants Pass was 8-of-12 from the line.

'If you make more free throws then the other team attempts, it usually bodes well,' Priester said.

Sunset advanced to play PIL champion Lincoln in the quarterfinals at 1:30 p.m. today (Thursday) at the University of Portland's Chiles Center. The Apollos won at Lincoln 50-48 in their first game of the season.

'Our goal is to play three games,' said Priester. 'It's been a nice ride and it will be fun there regardless of what we do.'