It's often said that a trait of a solid team is its ability to win ugly games. And it doesn't get much uglier than West Linn's opening round 39-38 playoff victory over Tigard on Tuesday.
The Lions emerged victorious in a wild game that went back and forth all evening, eventually being decided by Nikki Aden's jump shot from the corner with 12 seconds left in the game.
But West Linn had to endure a number of rough patches to even be in position to win the game. The first of those patches made up the entire opening quarter. In that period, the Lions opened with back to back airballs and hit only three of 17 shots from the field, many of them from within five feet of the basket.
'We definitely still have some things to work out in the paint but this was a game that really could have gone either way,' Lion coach Glen Lee said.
Tigard's zone defense dared the Lions to shoot from the outside and the visitors' shots simply wouldn't fall. The Tigers also struggled on offense, with the exception of sophomore guard Corinn Waltrip, who knocked down a pair of three-pointers, including one at the buzzer.
Britt May gave the Lions some of their only early highlights on offense, scoring four of the team's first six points.
West Linn did a good job on the boards all night, paced by Jennifer Kimbrow, who had six in the first quarter alone. Still, the Lions trailed 11-6 after eight minutes.
In the second period, turnovers hurt West Linn as the Tigers extended their lead. Waltrip knocked down another shot from beyond the arc as she scored 11 of her team's first 14 points.
The Lions continued to struggle when they received the ball in the paint but Emily Wattman-Turner kept the team close with a three-pointer.
A few minutes later, Wattman-Turner knocked down another deep shot to cut into the lead and then came up with a steal on defense.
'In that first half Nikki and (Wattman-Turner) did a phenomenal job just keeping us in the game,' Lee said.
Aden followed by knocking down three-pointers on back-to-back possessions, giving West Linn a 21-20 lead. Rosetta Adzasu scored on a drive late in the half as the Lions closed on an 11-0 run.
'We kept playing hard, fought through it and just kept shooting,' Aden said.
West Linn's momentum continued after the break as Adzasu scored her team's first four points of the half.
It appeared that everything was going the Lions' way when Emily Locke missed a free throw that was rebounded by Waltrip. Forgetting where she was on the court, Waltrip turned and knocked down a jump shot for West Linn, giving the Lions a nine-point lead.
However, moments later, a scoring discrepancy stopped the game for nearly five minutes as the officials sorted out the dispute.
As a result, the Tigers were able to regain their composure and forced three straight West Linn turnovers. Tigard closed the quarter on an 8-0 run and tied the game heading into the final stanza.
'It was almost like a mini-halftime,' Lee said.
The fourth quarter saw both squads playing with a considerable amount of jitters. Kimbrow was whistled for travelling which negated an early basket while Adzasu picked up a charging foul.
Tigard's Britany Duty hit one of two free throws to give her team a slim lead but, moments later, Kimbrow was fouled and knocked down both of her attempts as West Linn took a 35-34 advantage.
Tigard regained the lead when Duty threaded a pretty pass to Heidi Pizer for a lay-in but the Lions responded on their next trip down the court.
Aden drove and dished the ball to Kimbrow for an easy hoop with a minute and a half to play in the game.
The Tigers put the ball in the hands of Jessica Bedell who drove into the lane and scored a difficult lay-in with under a minute to play. This time, West Linn couldn't find an answer and the Tigers regained possession.
The Lions had to foul four times before getting Tigard into the bonus, forcing the home team to shoot free throws.
With 32 seconds to play, sophomore guard Melissa Woolard was fouled. She missed the front end of her one and one attempt but Tigard came up with a crucial rebound.
Before West Linn could foul again, the Tigers kicked the ball out to Waltrip but she was tied up and the officials called a jump ball, much to the chagrin of the Tigard fans.
The possession arrow gave the ball to West Linn and the team set up its final offensive play.
'We were just hoping to contain them and get the ball back, but mainly we just wanted to keep them scoreless,' Aden said.
Adzasu took the ball at the top of the key, beat her defender and drove into the key. She then dished the ball to Aden, near the left baseline.
Aden, who minutes earlier missed a three-pointer to give her team the lead, responded by knocking down a long two-point shot with 12.1 seconds showing on the clock.
'I was happy but I knew we had to get back on defense because it wasn't over yet,' Aden said.
Tigard called time-out to set up its final play. The Tigers got the ball to Bedell who drove the length of the court and got off an open 12-foot jump shot with six seconds to play.
Her shot missed long but Pizer came up with the rebound. The post put up a contested shot from just underneath the basket but her attempt was also off the mark. There was a scramble for the rebound but before either team could come up with the ball, the buzzer sounded and the Lions broke into celebration.
It was a truly wild finish to an incredibly exciting game. But the road doesn't get any easier for the Lions. West Linn will travel to Southridge to take on the fifth-ranked Skyhawks this Friday at 7 p.m.
'I just want to keep going. We're pretty confident right now and we're just going to go in and play our hardest,' Aden said.