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Turnover bug still haunts Lions, boys' team falls to 2-8

St. Helens hasn't won since Dec. 13, though they have come frustratingly close more times than they'd like to remember.


by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Sophomore Quintin Galvin drives the lane in the second half of Tuesday evening's loss to Liberty. Galvin was among a group of younger players who saw extended minutes as head coach Jerry Allen searches for a way to snap the winless streak.At some point, St. Helens must start to wonder if it's Deja vu, or just a bad dream they can't seem to wake from. Either way, the night ended with the players, fans and coaches wondering what happened to yet another halftime lead as the St. Helens boys’ basketball team fell 51-40 to Liberty in the Northwest Oregon Conference opener for both squads.

Turnovers, the culprit as of late in Lion losses, were only part of the problem. In the second half, St. Helens had no answers for Liberty point guard Koby Alvarado. He scored only two points, but it was his penetration and fancy passing that opened up easy opportunities for the Falcons, nearly all of which they were able to capitalize on.

On offense, the Lions struggled to get into a rhythm, often passing around the perimeter without finding a solid pass into the paint. Stout Falcon defense had the Lions on their heels, and eventually, the home team started to get a little flustered.

“In the second half we didn't contain and we didn't take care of the ball, and we rushed a lot of stuff,” said Head Coach Jerry Allen. “You know, just in terms of taking care of the ball, in terms of closing the game out. We played well for three quarters, and in the fourth quarter, just laid a fat goose egg.”

Closing games has been an issue. The Lions led at halftime of their game at Madison, but gave up big runs in the third and fourth quarter and fumbled the lead away. The loss to Willamette at the Barlow tournament featured a strong game from the Lions as well, but the Wildcats prevailed in overtime. It's a bug that Allen knows needs fixing, but it won't be an easy process.

“We've got a lot of stuff to work on in terms of closing the game out,” he said. “Making sure certain guys take care of the ball, and certain guys get the ball at the end of the game who are able to create opportunities for us. We didn't get those opportunities and we were rushed.”

The difficulty now is helping the team to find a balance between being patient and careful with the basketball, but also being aggressive and taking the ball to the rim.

“We were in the bonus the whole fourth quarter, and we all shot jump shots or we turned the ball over or we'd catch it, but then we'd take a bad shot,” said Allen. “Everybody took a turn.”

Due to the recent struggles, Allen has started to do some tinkering with the lineup and starting a few fresh faces. The youth performed well, according to Allen, but they are still lacking in some fundamental defensive skills.

“The younger guys don't understand what I mean when I say containment, and we'll just have to reinforce that,” said Allen. “Instead of pressuring up front and gambling, it's more so just keeping them in front. That's a teachable thing, so I have to go back to teaching and talk about containing and keeping guys in front and what that actually means.”

In spite of the defensive lapses, Allen was pleased with the success of the younger players on the offensive end of the court.

“They shared the ball. They created a lot of situations, they saw each other. They finished at the basket. The younger kids hit a couple of shots early,” he said, “We've just got to sustain and maintain the defense that we want, which doesn't necessary mean stealing the ball. It just means keeping guys in front (of you), playing aggressive and rebounding the ball. Giving the offense one shot. We did that for three quarters, and then in the fourth quarter, we didn't.”

The gloom of eight straight losses aside, the drought may soon be over for the Lions. They'll travel to Sherwood Friday night and then head to Milwaukie on Jan. 21. The Mustangs have struggled to find any kind of success, going 1-9 to start the season and have been beaten by an average of 18 points per game in their losses. Regardless, Allen sees progress and positive results ahead.

“I think we're okay,” he said. “I think we're ready to turn the corner. There were some good things that happened tonight that hadn't happened in the other games.”

SUMMARY

Liberty 51, St. Helens 40

LIB 7 10 16 18 – 51

STH 10 14 9 7 – 40

St. Helens 40: West 9, Long 8, Spencer 7, Bumgardner 7, Poorman 6, Helgerson 2, Galvin 1

Liberty: Walker 15, Mast 8, Bafaro 8, Greenlee 8, Parker 4, Kaser 4, Vosi 2, Alvarado 2

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