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Gaston girls' comeback efforts just fall short against Neah-Kah-Nie

Hounds drop close one to Neah-Kah-Nie, 23-20, in Northwest League clash

Points were not plentiful in this one.

But if you love great effort, intense defense and two closely matched teams, Gaston was a great place to take in a high school girls basketball game Friday night.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Gaston's Chariy Hall takes a shot during the Hounds 23-20 loss to Neah-Kah-Nie Friday.

While the Greyhounds ultimately fell short of upsetting Neah-Kah-Nie, losing 23-20, they came awfully close to pulling off something special in a game that went down to the final possession.

After the visiting Pirates raced out to a 9-1 lead early in the second quarter, the Hounds rallied to within one point midway through the fourth quarter and were still within one possession when Neah-Kah-Nie’s Alaina Holm split a pair of free throws with 3.3 seconds remaining.

Holm made the first and missed the second. Gaston was able to gather the rebound, but the Hounds couldn’t advance the ball quickly enough to get within range and launch a shot before the final buzzer.

The Pirates improved to 10-5 overall and 8-1 in Northwest League play while Gaston dropped to 4-13 and 2-6.

“There’s no quit,” Gaston head coach Travis Martin said afterward about his team. “It’s games like these, they know exactly what’s on the line and they just want to get after it. We just gotta work on little things … knock down free throws.”

When these two sides met up for their first go-round on Dec. 15, Neah-Kah-Nie prevailed, 37-29. Early on, the rematch didn’t look like it would be as close, especially when the Pirates went up by eight twice in the second period. The second time was at 11-3, when Sari Booth took advantage of a Gaston turnover for a score.

“I think the first half for us always is we don’t know what to expect, so we just kind of go slow,” junior wing Amber Becker said. “And then in the second half we get pumped up and we’re like, ‘OK, it’s time to go get this game finished.’”

Turnovers were in fact a bit of a theme in the first half for Gaston, as the Hounds frequently threw the ball into passing lanes for the Pirates to pick off or sometimes just turned it over unforced. But they cleaned that up considerably in the second half and started chipping away at their deficit.

Taylor Bassel had a lot to do with the rally, playing aggressively with the ball at hand, which set a tone and led to the free throw line. The sophomore wing scored four of her seven points in the third and helped Gaston draw within 17-13 heading in the fourth quarter after trailing 12-5 at the intermission.

“I know for Taylor, she can get to the rim at any time,” Martin said. “She can do it better than anybody we’ve faced, put the ball on the floor and get to the foul line.”

With Charity Hall, Emily Boehmer and Bassel combining to go 3-for-6 from the charity stripe to open the fourth, suddenly the Hounds were within 17-16 with less than four minutes to play. They couldn’t get over the hump, however. The Pirates responded with a pair of Holm free throws and a bucket from Jamey Sherman to go up 21-16 with less than 90 seconds remaining.

Setting up the game’s final sequences, Becker almost immediately answered with a clutch jumper to keep Gaston within three points, and then the Pirates missed four consecutive free throw tries, though they took time off the clock when Gaston couldn’t pick up a crucial rebound to head the other way.

Holm finally knocked a free throw down with 17.2 seconds remaining, but Becker – whom Martin described as a clutch fourth-quarter player – answered with another sweet jumper with 6.4 seconds to go for a 22-20 score.

“I always start off slow, and then I really get into it when I realize that we need to win and that I’m tired of losing,” Becker noted.

But Holm, who scored a game-high 15 points, had one final make in her and Gaston was left too little on the clock to force overtime.

Becker led Gaston with nine points, followed by Bassel’s seven. Hall added three. No Pirate besides Holm scored more than two points.

Next week, the Hounds host Knappa (3-14, 3-5) on Tuesday and play Faith Bible (11-6, 6-2) at Forest Hills Lutheran on Thursday. Neah-Kah-Nie travels to Warrenton for a nonconference contest on Wednesday before entertaining league-leading Vernonia (14-1, 7-0) on Thursday.

With seven games remaining for Gaston, perhaps its best is yet to come.

“Pretty much our focus right now is to face each team one at a time, get each win that we need, and to just to outplay them, to play to our potential, because we are capable of so much,” Bassel said. “If we play with the intensity … we did today, it’s going to pay off.”