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Hawks win ugly over Axes

Southridge is less than its best, but is still better than South Eugene, winning 48-40
by: JAIME VALDEZ, TO THE HOOP – Southridge senior Kiara Tate drives past a South Eugene defender during the Skyhawks’ 48-40 win over the Lady Axes in last week’s 6A state quarterfinals.

PORTLAND - A win is a win, and none are more important than at the state tournament.

Still, the Southridge girls basketball team figured it would need to turn it up a notch after beating South Eugene 48-40 last Thursday to reach the Class 6A state semifinals.

The Skyhawks' opener at the University of Portland's Chiles Center was a struggle down the stretch. A surge to start the second half afforded Southridge that luxury against the Axemen, the No. 3 seed out of the Southwest Conference.

Ahead 19-11 at halftime, the Metro League champion Skyhawks ran off 13 straight points in the third quarter's first two minutes to build a seemingly insurmountable lead. And it was, though South Eugene kept Southridge from cruising.

'Right now, (winning) is the most important thing, But we still need to play all the way through,' Skyhawk senior guard Kiara Tate said. 'It's expected from all of us to play hard all the time.'

That's how it is for Southridge, who was seeking and later earned its fourth straight state title. A lapse allowed the Axemen to close the gap last Thursday.

After hitting its first six shots of the second half, the Skyhawks made 2 of 16 the rest of the game. South Eugene slowly drew closer, cutting the deficit to 40-31 after two free throws by Sarah Whitfield, who was 7-of-7 at the line and had a game-high 13 points.

Southridge hit 5-of-6 free throws for a 45-31 lead with 1:35 left. A 7-0 South Eugene run kept things interesting, but Skyhawk guard Alex Earl made 3-of-4 foul shots to ice the win.

'South Eugene is a really, really good team,' Tate said. 'You can't put anything down on them.'

Southridge did as much to open the second half. After an Axemen turnover, Earl, who had five assists, found freshman Allison Greene on the top of the arc for a 3-pointer to start the key 13-0 run.

Greene's steal under the Skyhawk hoop led to a layin by Allie Brock, who had nine points on 4-of-5 shooting. Tate's steal set up her layin as Southridge took a 26-11 lead with six points in 24 seconds.

'We decided to come out and play with energy and pick up the pace of the game,' said Tate, who had 11 points and seven rebounds. 'They were passing across the court and we got a few steals.'

After a timeout, the Axemen's woes continued. They turned the ball over their first five second-half possessions resulting in 13 straight Skyhawk points. Greene drained a 12-footer from Earl. After her steal, Tate made 1-of-2 free throws but got the rebound of the miss and popped the ball out to Greene, who buried a 3-pointer for a 32-11 lead.

'She fits in perfectly,' Tate said of Greene, who had a team-high 12 points and nine rebounds (six offensive). 'She communicates and listens. She's an amazing player.

South Eugene ended the 13-0 run with a free throw but Tate buried a right baseline jumper for Southridge's largest lead at 34-12.

The Axemen chopped at the deficit, closing the third quarter on a 13-2 run to make it 36-25. The Skyhawks shot 1-of-7 in the fourth quarter but made 10-of-15 free throws to hold off South Eugene.

'People stopped working hard because we were up by so much,' Tate said. 'Everyone on the team makes a difference.'

Southridge fired on all cylinders for a 15-3 lead to open the game. Tate had a two layins, the second on a drive and fake pass, for a quick 6-0 lead.

Sophomore Janelle Weiss' 3-pointer, Greene's steal and fast break layin, and senior Michelle Jenkins' putback widened the lead before Tate grabbed a rebound, bolted up court, spun around a defender and laid the ball in as she was fouled to make it 15-3.

Southridge didn't score in the second quarter until Earl's only field goal of the game in 13 attempts, a jumper with 4:25 left. Behind six points from wing Elyse Barnes, the Axemen narrowed the gap to 19-11 by halftime.