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Tigers lose a heartbreaker

Girls basketball: Tigard falls to West Linn by one in Tuesday's state playoff thriller
by: DAN BROOD, TRAPPED — Tigard juniors Sarah Rehm (left) and Corinn Waltrip trap West Linn’s Nikki Aden in the backcourt during the second quarter of Tuesday’s playoff game.

TIGARD - It was wild.

It was thrilling - and crazy.

It was certainly somewhat strange.

And, unfortunately for the Tigard High School girls basketball team, it was also was heartbreaking.

The Tigers saw their stay in the Class 6A state playoffs, and their stellar 2006-2007 season, come to a close with a nail-biting 39-38 loss to West Linn in a state playoff first-round game that wasn't decided until the final buzzer sounded Tuesday at Tigard High School.

'It's definitely a heart-breaker,' Tigard junior post Brittany Duty said after the contest.

West Linn, with the victory, improved to 17-9 on the season and advances to the second round of the state playoffs. The Lions will play at Southridge in a postseason tilt on Friday.

Tigard, the No. 2 team out of the Pacific Conference, ended its season with a final overall record of 18-7.

'It's not how we wanted it to end up, but it was a good season,' Tigard coach Steve Naylor said. 'The girls worked hard all year and I'm really proud of them.

'One of our goals was to get a home playoff game, and we did that. Tonight, we had the opportunity. We had a shot, but we just didn't get it done.'

Tigard got off to a strong start in Tuesday's playoff contest. With sophomore guard Corinn Waltrip sinking a pair of first-quarter, three-point baskets, including a buzzer-beater off an assist from senior Erica Hansen, the Tigers held an 11-6 lead at the end of the period.

Waltrip sank another three-pointer, off another assist from Hansen, to up the Tigard advantage to 14-6 to start the second quarter. The Tigers continued their strong play for most of the remainder of the period. They held a 20-12 lead after junior guard Jessica Bedell converted a pair of free throws with 2 minutes and 23 seconds left in the first half.

However, West Linn came storming back before the intermission. The Lions went on an 11-0 run in the final 2:10 of the quarter - getting a pair of three-point baskets from senior Nikki Aden and one by junior Emily Wattman-Turner - to rally for a 23-20 lead at halftime.

'We knew they were going to make some shots,' Naylor said.

The intensity turned up a notch in the second half.

West Linn, getting back-to-back baskets by junior Rosetta Adzasu, upped its lead to 27-22 with 6:29 left in the third quarter. The game took its crazy turn on West Linn's next possession. After a missed free throw by Lion senior Emily Locke, the rebound was knocked out to a Tigard player - who, in turn, sank a 15-foot jumper into the wrong basket.

The play, resulting in two points for West Linn, upped the Lions' lead to 29-22. The visitors' advantage was 33-25 with 3:56 left in the third quarter when Tigard came back strong - thanks to its defense.

A layup by Duty, followed by a steal and layup by sophomore guard Melissa Woolard trimmed the lead to 33-29. Duty then came up with a steal and layup of her own. The Tigers then tied the game, at 33-33, when Waltrip came up with a steal and passed ahead to junior post Sarah Rehm, who put in her layup to pull Tigard even going into the fourth quarter.

The Tigers took their first lead of the second half, at 34-33, on a free throw by Duty coming with 6:05 to play in the game. That was the first of sixth lead changes in the fourth quarter, where neither team held a lead larger than one point.

Tigard, with 1:44 left, took a 36-35 lead when junior Heidi Pizer scored on a layup off a quick pass from Duty from the high post. West Linn answered right back on a layup by senior Jennifer Kimbrow with 1:28 remaining. But Tigers, getting a basket on a baseline drive by Bedell, regained the lead at 38-37 with 1:06 remaining.

The Tigers then gained possession, following a missed three-point attempt by Aden. Tigard then had a chance to add to its lead with 32.7 seconds left, but a free-throw attempt, in a one-and-one bonus situation, was off the mark. Duty grabbed the rebound, but West Linn was able to force a jump ball - with possession going to the Lions.

West Linn took advantage as Aden sank a go-ahead 17-foot jumper from the right side, giving the Lions a 39-38 lead.

Tigard, after taking a time out with 12.1 seconds left, one last chance. Bedell drove into the lane and put up a shot with four seconds left, but it rolled out. Pizer skied to grab the offensive rebound, but her follow-up shot hit the front rim. Duty battled for the loose ball, but time expired, leaving West Linn with the win.

'We can't blame anyone. We win as a team and lose as a team,' Duty said. 'It was nerve-wracking. So many different things were going through my mind. But we kept playing hard and went out strong.

'The season was a lot better than anyone expected. I'm proud of the whole team.'

Waltrip was Tigard's leading scorer in the playoff loss with 14 points. She sank four three-point baskets and had three steals. Duty had 10 points and nine rebounds. Bedell had six points and five rebounds.

Aden paced West Linn with 12 points. Kimbrow added nine.

The loss marked the final game for Tigard seniors Hansen, Katie Alexander, Stephanie Bedard and Ashley Pennington.

'It's going to be sad to see the seniors go. Erica had a great career here,' Naylor said. 'But the future is positive.'

'I'm excited for next year,' said Duty, who is one of many strong players who should return for the Tigers next year. 'We've got a great group back. Next year, we're going to be stronger than anyone can imagine.'