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Wildcats vying for playoff berth as NWOC slate nears end

by: JEFF GOODMAN / FILE - Kendall Tate (right), shown during a game against Sandy last season, had the game-winning steal and layup as the Wilsonville girls basketball team defeated Liberty at home Feb. 18.Kendall Tate has a penchant for making clutch plays late in games, even when she doesn’t have the ball in her hands.

At first, anyway.

With about 45 seconds remaining and the Wilsonville girls basketball team trailing by one, the junior guard came up with a steal and scored the game-winning layup in a 42-41 win over Liberty at home Feb. 18.

It might have seemed like just another evening on the court for the Wildcats (9-12, 6-6 in the Northwest Oregon Conference), who have been making a routine of narrow victories in tightly contested games.

They defeated Sandy by two points Feb. 11 to earn their first road victory of the regular season, and they erased a six-point halftime deficit to clinch a season sweep of St. Helens on the road with a 48-45 triumph Feb. 14.

Their 47-34 win over Parkrose on the road Feb. 20 was their fourth victory in five games, the only setback during the stretch coming against league-leading Putnam at home Feb. 15.

“We’ve been pulling them out,” Wilsonville coach Cindy Anderson said. “I’m really happy for the kids. I’ve always said that the harder you work, the luckier you are. And we’ve had some bum luck previously. It’s been good.”

Tate finished with 11 points against Liberty (8-14, 6-6), making the biggest impact in the final minute of the game.

After scoring the go-ahead basket off a steal, Tate and the Wildcats secured another takeaway to force the Falcons into fouling.

ChiAnn Morris, who finished with a team-high 14 points, missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity with 13 seconds remaining. But the Falcons were unable to convert after calling a timeout with four ticks left.

“Kendall and ChiAnn really stepped up,” Anderson said. “It was a fabulous game. It was fun.”

It wasn’t the first time Tate pilfered a victory for Wilsonville. In a nonconference game last season, the speedy three-sport athlete stole the ball and scored on a breakaway layup in the closing seconds to give the Wildcats a thrilling 44-43 triumph at Canby.

Complementing Tate’s defensive instincts against Liberty was a strong performance by Jocelyn Welberg, who Anderson said has played particularly well in recent weeks.

She has made noticeable strides at point guard after stepping into the void left by Caitlin Malvar, who transferred to West Linn before the start of the season.

Welberg had just five turnovers combined in the 96 minutes she played against Sandy, St. Helens and Liberty.

Anderson expected her team to have a much better outing than it had in its first meeting with the Falcons. Wilsonville scored just five points — all at the foul line — in the opening half of that game, going 0-for-18 from the field.

“I knew that wasn’t going to happen again,” Anderson said.

In the rematch, the Wildcats trailed by five points at the end of the first quarter but outscored Liberty 17-6 in the second period to take a 23-17 lead into the break.

They have also had success with their zone press, which Anderson tweaked for the second half of the regular season.

Wilsonville is still in the running for a playoff berth, but it will likely need to defeat either Sherwood at home Feb. 25 or Putnam on the road in its conference finale Feb. 28 — if not both — to finish in the top 24 of the Class 5A rankings. As of Feb. 21, it was listed at No. 26.

“We’re close,” Anderson said. “The improvement they’ve showed is huge. Being competitive in every game is great. We started from ground zero, while a lot of other teams had a lot of kids playing year-round. But the kids are having a good time and are now having some of the fruits of their labor show up in wins. They’re getting after it.”



Wilsonville 42, Liberty 41

Feb. 18 at Wilsonville High School

1 2 3 4 F

Liberty 11 6 13 11 — 41

Wilsonville 6 17 8 11 — 42

Wilsonville (42): ChiAnn Morris 14, Kendall Tate 11. Rest of team: 17.

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