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Defense is pivotal, as OC girls advance


The full-court press saves the day in a 60-42 come-from-behind win over South Salem

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Oregon City senior Montana Walters serves up an assist as the Pioneers go on the attack in Saturdays 60-42 win over South Salem.Oregon City’s top-ranked girls basketball team has been known for its aggressive, attack-dog full-court defense, and defense was pivotal for the Pioneers on Saturday, as they survived an early scare to drop the upset-minded South Salem Saxons 60-42, in a second-round game of the Class 6A state high school playoffs.

The Pioneers struggled to get their shots to drop early on and as a result they fell behind 10-3 to start the game. The Pioneers trailed 20-15 near the midpoint of the second quarter.

Oregon City got only two of 17 field goal attempts to drop in the first quarter. Fortunately the Pioneers’ full-court press kept Oregon City in the game, as the Pioneers forced seven turnovers in the first quarter and 15 turnovers in the first half.

Their shots started to drop late in the second period. They went on a 16-4 run to end the second quarter, building a 31-24 lead by the intermission. They then put the game away in the third period, when they made 10-of-16 shots from the floor.

Two inside buckets by Johanna Paine — off of passes from Montana Walters and from Catelyn Preston — to start the second half made it 35-24 Oregon City. And the Pioneers widened the gap from there.

Johanna Paine explained the cold shooting to start the game: “We came out really fired up. For the seniors, it’s our last game on our home court. There were a lot of emotions.”

“We were just over-amped,” Walters said. “I think we came out too ready to play. Knowing it was the last game on our home floor for the seniors, we wanted to win so badly....

“I missed my first three shots. But I knew if I kept after it and kept putting them up, eventually they’d start to drop, and they did.”

Walters added, “I guess this game was kind of special for me. I’m kind of sad. I’ve been playing on this floor since fourth grade and it’s the last game I’ll play here.”

After their suspect start at the offensive end of the floor, the Pioneers connected with 50 percent accuracy, making 22-of-44 attempted field goals in the final three quarters.

Walters headed up the effort, hitting three 3-pointers, scoring a game-high 17 points and assisting on nine baskets. Walters was 7-of-15 from the field on the night. Johanna Paine scored 14 points, and she corralled eight rebounds.

The Pioneers took off the press in the fourth quarter, after forcing 22 turnovers in the first three periods.

Payton Wilcox, a 5-10 senior wing, and 6-2 sophomore wing Katie McWilliams paced the Saxons offensively, scoring 12 and 8 points respectively. Both players were first-team all-league selections in the Central Valley Conference, where they helped the Saxons (18-9, 9-1) earn a co-league championship with West Salem, the school’s first league championship in girls basketball since 1992.

Saturday’s win was Oregon City’s 15th consecutive victory, and the win advanced the Pioneers (24-1, 10-0) to the big-school state quarterfinals for the 24th year in a row.

The Pioneers will face Metro League co-champion Beaverton (21-5, 9-1) Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at the Rose Garden in their state tournament opener. With a win in that game, they’d advance to a 1:30 p.m. Friday championship semifinal game with Central Catholic.

The Central Catholic Rams dealt the Pioneers their only loss of the 2012-13 season (59-48) on Dec. 29 at the Lake Oswego Interstate Shootout. The Mt. Hood Conference champion Rams (23-3, 12-0) enter the state tournament riding a 20-game win string, their only losses to two out of state teams and to Metro League co-champion Westview (63-49) early in the season.

Central Catholic, Southern Oregon Conference champion South Medford (22-4, 12-0), Oregon City, Westview (21-4, 9-1) and Clackamas (21-5, 8-2) were ranked first through fifth respectively in the final Oregon 6A high school coaches poll. Oregon City, South Medford, Clackamas, Central Catholic and Westview were ranked first through fifth respectively in the final OSAA power rankings, which take into consideration difficulty of schedule, based on opponents’ win-loss records.

“I’m totally fine with meeting [Central Catholic] in the semifinals,” Walters said. “Our bracket has us playing the top teams, which will make winning the state championship more meaningful. And I want redemption, because I did not play well the last time we played [Central Catholic].”

Walters said the key to getting by the Rams in a rematch would be: “We just have to play together and believe in each other the whole game. We have to play together and play for each other.”

“It’ll be like the state championship for us,” Paine said of the anticipated rematch with the Rams in the semifinals. “We don’t care when we play them, we just want a crack at them again.”

Paine added, “I have no doubt we can beat them. We just need to be focussed.... We didn’t finish [the last time we played them]. We didn’t box out, and we didn’t shoot well....”

Paine said she is confident that she and her teammates will show up ready to play for each of their games at this year’s state tournament.

“None of the seniors have won state, so this is huge for us,” she said. “We’re ready. We’ve worked hard. We’re prepared. We just have to bring it....

“[Wining a state championship is] a big deal for us, especially after last year. We took West Linn for granted, and it cost us. We’re not going to let that happen again.”

A year ago the Pioneers lost to West Linn 49-43 in the quarterfinals, after beating the Lions soundly twice during the regular season. West Linn was behind by nine points, trailing 33-24, heading into the fourth quarter of last year’s quarterfinal with Oregon City.

Pioneers light them up

in a first-round game

The Pioneers were at the top of their game in a Feb. 27 first-round state playoff game with Hillsboro, a 96-23 victory.

The Pioneers forced 11 turnovers in the first quarter alone as they rolled to a 27-4 first-quarter lead and never looked back. It was the sixth time in their last seven games that they’d scored 80 or more points.

The Pioneers forced 34 turnovers in the game. Making shots from long range as well as from close to the basket, they burned the nets, shooting with 62.7 percent accuracy from the field. They had assists on 30 of their 37 baskets, and they hit 13 of 25 shots from 3-point range.

Led by Jessica Gertz (14 points), Jenae Paine (13 points), Johanna Paine (12 points) and 5-6 freshman Cierra Walker (11 points), thirteen players scored for Oregon City. Gertz was 5-of-9 from the field, with three 3-pointers; Jenae Paine was 5-of-10 from the field, with three 3-pointers; Johanna Paine was 5-of-7 from the field; and Walker was 4-of-6 from the field, with three 3-point baskets.

Montana Walters and Toria Bradford sparked the offense with 13 assists between them.

Johanna Paine and sophomore Jerusha Paine headed the defensive onslaught, each with four steals.

Hillsboro made only nine field goals, out of 36 attempts, for a lukewarm .250 shooting percentage.