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PREPS: Oh, so close for Grant girls

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Generals fall by 2 in defensive OSAA 6A semifinal struggle with No. 1-seed Southridge

That one fortuitous bounce or one friendly whistle might have changed their fate left members of the Grant High girls basketball team frustrated Friday night.

But there was little for the Generals to regret after pushing top-seeded Southridge to the brink before falling 36-34 in a frenetic and physical Oregon School Activities Association Class 6A girls basketball semifinal.

"The effort was just uncanny," Grant coach Kendra Gardner said. "It was unfortunate that we couldn't get a break."

Grant never led, but Southridge (26-2) could not breathe easily until making three free throws in the final 20 seconds.

Grant (25-3), the No. 4 seed, will play No. 2 South Salem (24-4) for the third-place trophy at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Chiles Center. Southridge and Oregon City will meet at 8:30 p.m. for the title.

Grant senior Khiarica Rasheed called Friday's defensive effort the best of the season from the Generals. Southridge had scored fewer than 50 points only once entering Friday, and the Skyhawks are used to seeing 60s and 70s on the scoreboard. Grant forced 13 turnovers and limited Southridge to 38-percent shooting.

But Southridge's defense was equal to the challenge. Grant shot 25.5 percent from the floor — 17 percent in the first half despite a series of good looks for the Generals.

Two of Grant's big guns — senior Nina Radford and sophomore Daryn Hickok — were a combined 7 for 31.

Rasheed, despite giving up at least five inches to Southridge 6-4 freshman Cameron Brink, scored a team-high 11 points by attacking the basket.

"She's tall, but I have more muscle. So I felt like I could just go at her, get her off the block, get her in foul trouble," Rasheed said.

After Brink scored six points around the basket in the first four minutes, she was limited to one more basket the rest of the way as Grant worked to deny entry passes.

But Brink was a factor on defense, with seven of her team's 11 blocked shots keeping the Generals from getting comfortable on offense.

Gardner said she knew her team would compete hard, but would not have imagined such a difficult shooting night.

"You play a little tight. It's a big stage. And credit to Southridge's defense. They had us on our heels a little bit," Gardner said.

Junior forward Maggie Freeman scored 12 points for the Skyhawks, eight in the second half. Her transition layup with 3:47 left was the last field goal for Southridge and gave the Skyhawks a 33-26 lead.

Radford, who scored her first points with 5:44 left swished a 3-pointer with 1:42 left to pull the Generals within four points. Three times down the stretch Grant thought it had tied up Southridge players for held balls that would have given the Generals extra possessions. But twice Grant was whistled for fouls and once Southridge called a timeout.

Still, when Hickok scored a tough basket and was fouled, the Generals were within 33-31 with 39 seconds left.

They had one possession down two, but Amaya Aldridge's jumper from just inside the free-throw line rolled off the rim — as so many shots did in this game.

After two made free throws put Southridge up four, Radford missed on a difficult 3-point try. The Skyhawks added one more free throw, so Radford's 3 at the buzzer could only narrow the final margin.

Grant outscored the taller Skyhawks 20-18 in the paint. Southridge won the rebound battle 36-31.

Radford had eight points, nine rebounds, three steals and three assists. Hickok had eight points and seven rebounds.

Rasheed said she was "very confident right from the jump. Nobody believed in us, but we believed in ourselves. We took it all the way to the end. It just didn't happen for us."

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@pauldanzer