The Pioneers overcome early nerves and take the top-ranked Hawks down to the wire
by: ROLAND SIMMONS, Lindsey Shearer (15) was Oregon City’s top point-getter in Saturday night’s state title showdown with Southridge, scoring 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting. A 5-9 senior, Shearer also exceled on defense, as she held her own with Southridge 6-3 post Michelle Jenkins.

PORTLAND - Oregon City High School's girls basketball program is alive and well.

The Pioneers demonstrated that Saturday night, when they fought back from an 20-6 second quarter deficit to give three-time defending state champion Southridge a run for its money before yielding 49-43 in the championship game of the 2008 State 6A High School Tournament.

The third-ranked Pioneers out-scored the top-ranked Skyhawks 37-29 in the final 21 minutes of play.

The Skyhawks made only one field goal in the fourth quarter, when they hung on with 9-for-19 free throw shooting.

While the Hawks sported a relatively experienced lineup, the Pioneers fielded a team that was inexperienced at varsity level play at the start of the season. Only two players with substantial varsity experience - including one starter - returned from the 2006-07 Pioneer team that placed sixth at state.

'I'm disappointed we didn't win, but we gave it our best shot,' Oregon City senior co-captain Lindsey Shearer said, following Saturday night's final. 'We played a tough team. We got behind early, but we didn't quit. We battled to the end. I'm proud of my team and I'm proud to be a Pioneer.'

'I feel really good,' said Oregon City senior Kenna Borgmeier. 'We proved a lot of people wrong. We were so inexperienced that no one gave us much of a chance.'

Borgmeier explained the Pioneers' struggles early in Saturday's final, when they fell behind 16-2:

'A lot of it was nerves. The large crowd and the atmosphere. Most of us have never been here before.'

The Pioneers committed seven turnovers in the first quarter, many of them unforced.

But they shook their nerves in the second quarter and came roaring back. The Pioneers had only one turnover in the second period, while they upped their intensity in their full- and half-court defense, and forced eight Southridge turnovers.

Shearer scored an inside basket off a pass from Borgmeier with 48 seconds remaining in the first half to trim the gap to 22-16. The halftime gap might have been even smaller, except a Pioneer missed the front end of two one-and-ones late in the second period.

The Skyhawks made another run in the third quarter and forged a 36-21 advantage just past the midpoint of the third stanza.

But there was no quit in the Pioneers.

And when Karlie Gach rebounded a Skyhawk miss and went coast-to-coast for a fast-break lay-up with 33 seconds to play, Southridge's lead was only 47-43.

However the Pioneers were unable to convert down the stretch, and Southridge fans stormed the floor to celebrate the Hawks' fourth consecutive state title.

'I love the fact that they never quit,' said Oregon City coach Kurt Guelsdorf. 'A lot of teams that found themselves down 16-2 would have quit. These girls never gave up and I'm very proud of them. They're a true representation of what Oregon City basketball is all about. They've got character. They practice hard; they play hard; and they never quit.'

'I love my team,' said Borgmeier. 'I loved every single minute of every practice and every game that I spent with them.

'People didn't expect us to get here. It definitely hurt not to win. But I have no regrets. It's been a lot of fun.'

Asked what she thought of the Pioneers, Southridge 6-3 senior post Michelle Jenkins said, 'All their state championships speak for themselves. Oregon City's always good. They've got a great program. Beating Oregon City is always an accomplishment.'

This is the 22nd straight season that Oregon City has captured a trophy at state in girls basketball. The Pioneers have made the state final in 15 of the past 22 seasons, winning 10 state titles. They've won or shared Three Rivers League titles in each of the past 15 seasons.

With the win in Saturday's title game, the Skyhawks became the only team in Oregon high school girls basketball besides Oregon City to have won four consecutive state titles. The Pioneers earned five straight titles from 1994-98 and four straight titles from 2001-04.

Jenkins was Oregon City's nemesis on Saturday. Outsized by six inches, Shearer made Jenkins work for everything she got. But Jenkins still scored a game-high 15 points and hauled down 10 rebounds. She was 5-of-7 from the field and 5-of-5 from the charity stripe.

Shearer and 5-9 junior wing Melair Holterhoff paced Oregon City on offense, scoring 13 and 10 points respectively.

Gach had a big game. The 5-7 senior wing came off the bench to score eight points on 2-of-3 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 shooting from the free throw line, and she didn't have a turnover.

Borgmeier and Shearer headed Oregon City's defense, each with three steals.

Oregon City forced 22 turnovers on the night, while committing 17.

The Pioneers found the mark on 14-of-38 (.368) shots from the floor and on 15-of-20 (.750) free throws.

The Hawks went 16-for-34 (.471) from the field and 13-of-27 (.481) from the line.

Southridge finished the year with a 24-4 record. Oregon City finished up at 23-4.

Five of eight players who saw action for Oregon City in Saturday's title game are expected to return next year, including starters Calli Jackson (5-10 post), Brittany Knighton (6-0 wing) and Holterhoff (5-9 wing).

Knighton, who was a unanimous selection to the all-tournament first team, had an off-night on Saturday, finding the mark on only 3-of-14 shots from the floor.

She scored 12 points in a 53-39 quarterfinal win over fifth-ranked North Medford and 18 points in a 52-42 semifinal win over Sunset.

Knighton said of the all-tournament selection, 'It's a great honor. I'm just glad I got to share this great experience with my teammates. It's the best experience I've had in girls basketball.'

Of 14 players who suited up for Oregon City at this year's state tournament, only Shearer, Borgmeier, Gach and Jessica Anderson will be lost to graduation next year.

Underclassmen on this year's state tournament roster included: juniors Jackson (5-10 post), Holterhoff (5-9 wing), Jordan Cross (5-5 point guard), Alisha Sleight (5-10 post), Ashley Reed (6-0 post) and Jenna Halberg (5-8 wing); sophomores Knighton (6-0 wing), Taylor Belmont (5-5 point guard) and Becca Daniel (5-5 wing); and freshman Ashleigh Anderson (5-5 wing).

'We'll have a very strong team next year,' said Shearer. 'They'll be back here, and they're going to take it.'

'It's going to take a lot of hard work, in the weight room and in the gym,' said Guelsdorf. 'But I certainly believe this is a team that is capable of getting back to Saturday night.'

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