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Girls basketball: St. Helens beats Milwaukie, readies for rematch with Sandy

A little late-game heroics from sophomore Maggie Cochran saved the day last Friday evening, as the Lions held on to beat Milwaukie 39-37 on the road.

“She went from goat to hero,” Head Coach Billy McKinney said with a sideways chuckle.

Holding a slim three-point lead in the final seconds, St. Helens had one goal in the last defensive possession: don't commit a foul, and don't foul the Mustangs while shooting a three.

Sure enough, as Milwaukie's heavy-hitter came around a screen with a second left on the clock, Cochran was whistled for the foul, putting the Lions in a precarious position. The first free throw was off, but the second was good, drawing the Mustangs within two points with enough time for a putback on the third free throw, which came off the rim.

“Maggie grabs the biggest rebound of her life,” McKinney said. “Cause the girl, after she shot it and missed it, she went in to tip it like this. The girl was standing right under the basket, if she'd shoot it, it'd go it. Maggie leaps up, intercepts the tip, comes down with it like this here. Game over. Crazy.”

In addition, Cochran scored eight of her nine points in the second half, tying Rianne Tupper for team-high honors. Anika Bingaman finished with six points. Emily Nollette, who hit pressure free throws down the stretch, and Tierra Ramsay each had five points in the win.

McKinney said the victory was a major confidence booster for the Lions, who have won only a handful of league games on the road over the last four years. In truth, St. Helens hasn't had three or more league wins in any season for the last 10 years, and the Lions have several chances to increase their total with eight games remaining on the schedule.

McKinney has his eye set on four: A road game at Putnam on Feb. 17, a home game against Parkrose on Feb. 6, next week's road contest at Liberty and Friday's tilt with Sandy at home. In the nine-team NW Oregon Conference, the top six teams make the postseason. The Lions sit just one spot behind Putnam for the sixth berth, and should have a shot at the play-in round as the season comes to a close.

“Oh, Jiminy Christmas. Huge,” McKinney said, pausing at the prospect of the former doormats playing in the postseason. “That'd make a name for ourselves, that's what it'd do. It'd make a name for ourselves. It'd paint a big picture for us, and it'd leave a lot of people that — not that there's a lot of doubters, but there are doubters — and it'd give the kids a lot of confidence.”

First up, though, is wiping away the stain from their first conference game of the year: a 70-37 loss on the road to Sandy. They'll have the Pioneers in town on Friday night, and McKinney said, regardless of the final score, it'd be an entirely different game.