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Girls basketball: Lions improve, but fade as Sandy rallies

St. Helens falls to Sandy 55-43, fades in second half


It took a little longer than usual for the Lions, frustrated and a little angry, to emerge from the locker room. Billy McKinney, in his fourth season as head coach, was the last to step back on to the court and slowly made his way back to the scores table.

“[We played] three and a half quarters, extremely well tonight,” Billy McKinney. “Well, two and a half.”

McKinney's assessment was fairly accurate. The Lions led most of the second quarter and all of the third, but fell behind in the final period as Sandy came from 10 points down to win 55-43 on Friday night.

Still, the game marked a major improvement for St. Helens, who lost 70-37 to Sandy early in the season. Regardless of the second-half collapse, McKinney said the team was well aware of the difference between the two contests.

“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 McKinney and assistant coach Nate Holm, 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 Lions were outscored 33-15 in the second half, and by the time the contest was over, were missing three of their most important interior defenders. Cochran and Bella Roth both fouled out in the fourth quarter, leaving the Lions short-handed after having to play without six-foot-two post Leslie Curtiss.

Rianne Tupper, who led all scorers with 15 first-half points, finished with 18 points.

Aside from the 21-point improvement in the margin against the Pioneers this season, the Lions are able to take plenty of positives into the next stretch of games. Firstly, they've held five of their last seven opponents under 50 points after accomplishing the feat just twice in the first eight games. Secondly, St. Helens have a full compliment of players, including Curtiss and a fully-healthy Annika Bingaman.

They also can normally expect bigger contributions from Emily Nollette, who struggled with her shot and finished with five points, and just might see continued confidence from freshman Morgan Bingaman, who scored six points and rainbow'ed home both of her free throw attempts.

Improved confidence was evident across the board in the first half, something McKinney has called attention to for several weeks, but a change which hadn't been as evident until the game with Sandy. At 3-6 in NW Oregon Conference play, the Lions still have more league wins than in any season in the last ten years, and are within easy reach of the sixth and final playoff spot from the conference.

The post-season attitude, according to McKinney, needs to start now. He had a preview of exactly what the group would be hearing at their next practice:

“You guys need to start playing like you're a playoff team,” he said.

SUMMARY

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

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