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Girls basketball: St. Helens still in playoff hunt

Lady Lions yet to break 18-year playoff drought

Photo Credit: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - St. Helens senior Rianne Tupper shoots over the Sandy defense in the second half of the Lions' loss on Friday night. Tupper scored 15 of her 18 points in the first half.The St. Helens girls basketball program has gone through an awful lot in the last 18 years. They've seen more than a handful of head coaches, and have switched leagues three times. They've won at least three league games only once in the last 10 seasons — this year — but there's something they haven't managed to accomplish since early March of 1997.

Current senior Rianne Tupper was only a few months old the last time the Lady Lions made the state tournament. They went 17-4 that season under Jeff Edwards, who later coached the softball program, and made their first appearance in nine seasons.

And while St. Helens isn't poised to make a title run and isn't likely to make much noise, there's a chance — a slim one, but a chance — the Lady Lions will see the postseason.

With six games remaining in the season, St. Helens is a half-game out of the sixth and final playoff berth from the NW Oregon Conference. And with still more room to grow, the Lions have already accomplished several feats upon which to hang their collective hats. Since the inception of the NW Oregon Conference prior to the 2006-07 season, St. Helens had never beaten Liberty, they'd never beaten Milwaukie and they'd never totaled more two wins in league play.

Even in the games they've lost this season, the Lions have shown major improvement. St. Helens was defeated in last Friday's game with Sandy 55-43, but built on a 70-37 loss from earlier this season. The Lions had held a 10-point lead after jumping ahead in the second quarter.

“Even though it's a loss, they still know that, 'Wow, we did a lot better.' They know,” he said. “We should have won it, we should have, but this will be good because I'll point out to them, 'Remember first time you played 'em, what happened. This time you played them you might have lost, but only by 12, verses, what was it, 70-26?'”

For both Head Coach Billy McKinney and assistant Nate Tibbets, the turning point came midway through the third quarter when Maggie Cochran picked up her fourth foul. Running with one of Sandy's players, Cochran tripped near the half court line and fell to the floor but was whistled for a foul — her fourth. At that point, the Lions had few answers for Sandy senior Raquel Pellecer, who scored 15 of her 16 points in the second half.

“Missed assignments, costly turnovers and foul trouble down the stretch,” McKinney said before reverting to his usual positive-first outlook. “But we're still alive. We're still in the mix. It'd be nice to get the win at Liberty on Tuesday. That'd be nice, and then Parkrose here on Friday.”

The win on the road at Liberty didn't go as hoped. St. Helens did well in the first half, but turnovers and poor shooting pushed the Lions to a 51-31 loss after having beaten the Falcons 54-53 earlier this year. Tierra Ramsay led St. Helens with 10 points, while Tupper and Leslie Curtiss each had six. All six of Tupper's points came on her first two three pointers as the Lions shot just seven for 31 from the field, despite making five of eight three-point attempts.

A win over Parkrose, though, is still a possibility, as the 5-12 Broncos have lost all nine of their league games thus far. McKinney said both the game against Parkrose and Tuesday's tilt with Wilsonville, also at home, were both winnable.

The Lady Lions and Parkrose will tip off at 7:15 p.m. on Friday evening.


Sandy 55, St. Helens 43

SAND 10 12 14 19 — 55

STHE 9 19 10 5 — 43

Scoring: Tupper 18, Cochran 4, Roth 4, Nollette 5, Ramsay 4, A. Bingaman 2, M. Bingaman 6

Liberty 51, St. Helens 31

Scoring: Tupper 6, Cochran 5, Nollette 2, Ramsay 10, Curtiss 6