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Lions girls' basketball enjoying optimistic summer

St. Helens battles Class 6A teams to 6-5 record

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: JAKE MCNEAL - Lions eighth-grader Maddie Holm (44) and the Lions fell 31-22 at Forest Grove on Saturday, June 18, but completed summer play with a 6-5 record.A close loss to Class 6A host Forest Grove on Saturday, June 18, was the latest encouraging sign for Lions girls' basketball.

The Vikings allowed the third-fewest points in the state (40 per game) in 2015-16 but could not close the 31-22 win against St. Helens' tough zone until the closing minutes.

Lions coach Billy McKinney estimated that eighth-grader Maddie Holm averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Lions (6-5 overall in summer play), and that sophomore Kaylee Wegner averaged an estimated 10 points and eight rebounds.

"The kids are young and learning as they come up from JV2," McKinney said. "The key is to keep showing up. It's about doing the things we need to do and trying to blend."

St. Helens faced all Class 6A teams this summer, and Holm and sophomore wings Irene Omboke, Trinity Degraffenreid and Sarah Sonnenburg are only getting better.

Playing larger schools raises expectations, where the Lions sparred with Class 3A summer opponents and had won 10 games in four years before McKinney arrived.

St. Helens' positive summer record comes even without returning varsity players like all-Northwest Oregon Conference second-team junior wing Maggie Cochran.

The Lions varsity went 7-17 and 2-14 in the conference in the winter — a game better than 2014's 6-17, 4-12 — as they beat Class 6A Portland schools Madison and Franklin.

Eight of St. Helens' losses were by 10 or fewer points.

"The potential is here," McKinney said.