OC, Clackamas, Milwaukie and La Salle are all ranked in the top five in the state in girls basketball

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Oregon City senior post Johanna Paine takes the ball to the basket in the Pioneers Nike Interstate Shootout win over Southridge. The Pioneers suffered their first loss of the season in the tournament, but they are still ranked No. 1 in the state in the OSAA Class 6A power rankings.Area high school girls basketball teams have had more than their share of success in preseason, and their early success has earned them rankings near the top in the OSAA power rankings.

Entering the new year, Oregon City and Clackamas were ranked first and fifth respectively in the Class 6A power rankings; Milwaukie was ranked No. 5 in Class 5A; and La Salle was ranked No. 4 in Class 4A.

Oregon City and Clackamas proved themselves among the cream of the crop in the prestigious Nike Interstate Shootout, hosted by Lake Oswego Dec. 27-30. The two teams met in the third-place final of the tournament, with Oregon City winning in a 61-36 runaway over their Three Rivers League rivals.

“They are disciplined and they are a veteran team with lots of experience playing together,” Clackamas coach Todd Lane said of Oregon City. “Playing them on the fourth day of a four-day tournament with no time to prepare is very tough, especially when you’ve got a young team. We’re a team that needs a couple of days to prepare to play Oregon City....

“I think it was good for my young kids to get to play Oregon City in a tournament environment and see how hard they play. Hopefully, in two weeks, when we meet them on Jan. 18, we’ll be better prepared and we’ll give them a better game.”

The Pioneers (10-1) went 3-1 in the tournament, defeating Southridge 54-33 and eleventh-ranked South Salem 64-44, before losing to Central Catholic 59-48 in the semifinals. Central Catholic (9-3), which was ranked No. 1 in last week’s coaches poll, was ranked third — behind Oregon City and South Medford (7-2) — in the OSAA power rankings entering the new year. The coaches ranked Clackamas fifth.

“That’s one of the reasons why we play such a tough schedule outside of league,” Oregon City coach Kurt Guelsdorf said. “When you play really good opponents who are winning a lot of games, it helps your ranking.”

Central Catholic put Oregon City away in the fourth quarter of the Shootout semifinal, outscoring the Pioneers 20-10 in the stanza.

“The [Central Catholic game] came down to who made the last run,” Guelsdorf said. “They got up on us in the fourth quarter and we had to foul....

“I think we are every bit as good as, or better than, Central Catholic. On that particular day, they were a little better.”

Senior post Johanna Paine was the most consistent scorer for the Pioneers through the tournament, averaging 20.2 points and scoring a high of 24 points in the opener with Southridge.

Clackamas (10-3) opened the Interstate Shootout with wins over eighth-ranked St. Mary’s (57-45) and then seventh-ranked Beaverton (64-42), before meeting its match in nationally-ranked Norcross, GA (82-45) and Oregon City.

“The girls played hard,” Lane said of their play in the game with Norcross. “It’s just that [Norcross] is at a different level than we are.... They had size and greater overall speed.”

He said a lack of aggressiveness on the backboards hurt his charges in the Oregon City game.

“They really hammered the boards on us,” he said. “They had 20 offensive rebounds, which is more than we had defensive rebounds.”

Led by Johanna Paine (14 rebounds), Catelyn Preston (9 rebounds) and Jaime Goff (8 rebounds), the Pioneers out-rebounded the Cavaliers 50-24.

by: MILES VANCE - Clackamas junior wing Sydney Azorr (15) eyes the basket in the Cavaliers Nike Interstate Shootout win over seventh-ranked Beaverton.Senior wing Deeshyra Thomas and junior wing Sydney Azorr were Clackamas’ most consistent players for the tournament, averaging 14.5 and 10.5 points respectively. Thomas scored a game-high 19 points, hitting three treys, in the Beaverton game, as the Cavaliers outscored the Beavers 35-15 in the second half to break the game open. Azorr scored a game-high 18 points against St. Mary’s, as the Cavaliers earned a 33-21 advantage after the intermission of that game.

Led by Johanna Paine (16 points ppg, 61 percent shooting), Oregon City (10-1) outscored opponents by an average score of 65-44 in its first 11 games.

Point guard Montana Walters averaged eight points and eight assists.

The Pioneers forced an averaged of 22 turnovers a game.

Oregon City and Clackamas begin TRL play this Friday. The Pioneers host Lakeridge (6-7), while the Cavaliers entertain West Linn (6-7).

Mustangs have a

target on their backs

The Milwaukie Mustangs entered this Tuesday’s (Jan. 8) Northwest Oregon Conference girls basketball opener with Wilsonville with a target on their backs.

The Class 5A Mustangs went 7-2 in preseason, despite a schedule that included games with eight teams from Class 6A schools.

“It looks like we’ll be the [NWOC] team everyone’s gunning for,” Milwaukie coach Kevin McElroy said. “We’re the only team in the league that had much success winning games in preseason. The only team besides ourselves that had a winning record was St. Helens. They went 6-4, but they played a weaker schedule. We’re the only team from the league ranked in the top 20 in the OSAA rankings.”

The Mustangs were impressive in a Dec. 27-28 tournament at Gresham, upending Class 6A Forest Grove 58-44 in the tournament championship game, after defeating Class 6A Reynolds 54-31 in the tournament’s first round. Through play last weekend, Forest Grove (9-2) was ranked ninth in the state in the 6A power rankings.

Milwaukie in preseason also defeated St. Mary’s (51-47), which was ranked eighth in 6A. The Mustangs’ only losses in preseason were to Oregon City (65-51) and to Jesuit (49-43 in overtime).

“We’re playing some pretty good basketball right now,” McElroy said. “We’re sharing the ball and things are clicking a lot earlier than they have in the past. Our challenge will be to come out with intensity no matter who the opponent is....

“I know the girls are motivated. Their goal is they don’t want to share the title this year.”

Veterans Alexis Noren (15.7 ppg, 5 assists per game), Lorissa Martine (11.2 ppg), Emily Downs (8.1 ppg) and April Meads (7.7 ppg) have led a balanced offensive attack in preseason. Noren has also averaged a team-high 5.8 rebounds and 5.2 steals. Martine is a hot-handed 20-of-46 (.434) on 3-pointers.

Noren (20 points), Martine (16 points) and Meads (12 points) all hit double figures in scoring in the upset of Forest Grove. The Mustangs were in charge from the opening tip-off, outscoring the Vikings 26-9 in the first quarter. Noren tallied 12 points in the stanza.

“[Forest Grove] tried to press us and we beat their press,” McElroy said. “And they didn’t handle our press very well.”

Milwaukie plays cross-town rival Putnam (2-7) on the road this Friday.

The Kingsmen played in the Woodburn/Silverton Invitational over the Christmas break, yielding to the Silver Foxes 54-32, and to the Bulldogs 54-37. Junior Kelsea Baton led a balanced attack for the Kingsmen in both games, scoring 12 points against Silverton and 9 points in the Woodburn game.

After a slow start, the Kingsmen lost to Wilson 44-35 last Saturday. They out-scored the Trojans 19-13 in the second half, when they upped their intensity on defense.

La Salle girls

are on fire

The La Salle Prep Falcons have proven themselves without question one of the top Class 4A girls basketball teams in the state.

The Falcons proved themselves worthy of their high ranking last Saturday when they gave seventh-ranked Banks a run for its money in a 48-46 loss. La Salle (9-2) was riding an eight-game win string heading into that game. The Falcons are averaging 66 points a game, to 39 points by their opponents.

The Falcons have been especially impressive in recent games. In other games played last week, they handled Scappoose (64-25) and Tillamook (90-19).

And they won a recent holiday tournament at eighth-ranked Sisters in convincing fashion, upending third-ranked La Grande 67-29 in the tournament championship game, after advancing through routs of Burns (60-31) and Class 5A Redmond (56-31).

Sterling Swift tallied 24 points in the shellacking of La Grande. The 5-8 junior guard was 9-of-16 from the field, with three 3-pointers.

The Falcons forced the La Grande Tigers into submission, with no fewer than 26 steals. Senior Natalie Schlechter headed the defensive assault, with five thefts.

The Falcons have rallied around their defense and the full-court press all season, averaging better than 20 steals an outing.

Through play Jan. 2, Swift was averaging 21.3 points. The next highest scorer was junior Andrea Novak, averaging 7.3 points.

Novak was also averaging a team-leading 6.9 rebounds; junior Allison Ilg was averaging a team-high four steals.

The Falcons get their final tuneup for the Tri-Valley Conference this Friday, when they play Astoria on the road.

La Salle begins conference play next Tuesday, hosting cross-town rival Gladstone.

Sporting a youthful lineup, the Gladiators (4-5) have had an up-and-down preseason. They got outscored by 17 points in the third quarter of a Dec. 29 game with tenth-ranked Elmira, but only lost by 10 points.

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