St. Helens beat out Wilsonville by four strokes to make the state finals for the first time since the move to the Northwest Oregon Conference

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Jacob Roxey, the Lions' leader at the Northwest Oregon Conference championships, surveys a putt at the fifth hole on the second day of competition at The Reserve in Aloha. Thanks to a tooth-and-nail battle to the final hole, the St. Helens boys' golf team is headed to state for the first time since 1993.

The Lions took second ahead of Wilsonville on Tuesday, beating the Wildcats by four strokes to advance to the state championships on May 19 and 20.

Sherwood won the Northwest Oregon Conference district competition at The Reserve, but the Lions made leaps and bounds on the second day of the tournament, tying the Bowmen with 319 points and seeing four of their players drop considerably in score.

Senior Eric Aldridge, shot a team-best 79 on Tuesday, improving his mark by 10 strokes over Monday's score. Jordan Roark and Michael Hewlett knocked five and six strokes off their score between the first and second round and senior Cody Teyema improved by one to provide a supporting cast to junior Jacob Roxey, who shot a 72 on the first day and finished with 154 points to lead St. Helens to their second-place finish.

“It was an exciting finish,” said Dave Lawrence, the boys' golf coach of the last 11 seasons. “We weren't sure until the final guy.”

Lawrence said it was typical of the season so far: the numbers were all so close that the scores could have belonged to anyone.

“The guys just knew that it would have to be a total team effort,” said Lawrence.

Four golfers finished with second-team all-league honors, and if not for four lost-ball penalty strokes for Roxey in the second round, he might have finished in the top three. It was the depth, according to Lawrence, that allowed the Lions to best Wilsonville, who advanced two golfers to the championships with a first place finish from junior Chan Lee and a fifth place berth from sophomore Jake Bell.

Throughout the second day, when it became clear that St. Helens had a solid chance to make the state finals, the Lions began to garner the support of the coaches, players and fans in attendance.

“There were a lot of people pulling for us,” said Lawrence, who joked that the Lions might have gotten louder applause on made putts than anyone else on the course.

The second-place finish for St. Helens caps an incredible streak against Wilsonville that saw the Lions rebound from three consecutive losses early in the season to win four in a row, including the match up at the district competition.

It's also been the product of steady improvement in the St. Helens boys' golf program, which has been bolstered by widespread community support over the last few seasons. The addition of a putting green and practice ground at Grace Baptist Church near St. Helens High School has been a major asset, according to Lawrence, who worked with Wildwood Golf Course to install the facility three years ago.

Lawrence doesn't expect to win at the state championships, but would like to finish in the “upper-middle” of the 12-team tournament that will likely be dominated by Sherwood.

But if the ball bounces their way and they play a game like their second outing at the district championships, Lawrence believes they have a chance to place.

“We're just taking things one day at a time,” he said.

Correction: In the print-version of the article, the statement that the berth is the Lions' first in school history is incorrect.

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