by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Beaverton junior post Dagny McConnell scrambles after a loose ball in the second quarter of the Beavers' 54-33 win over Lake Oswego in the quarterfinals of the Interstate Shootout.

Winners of five straight effortless triumphs, the Beaverton girls’ basketball team has spurned a 0-2 start and began to discover its distinctiveness as a squad.

It’s floored consecutive five foes including Saturday’s 54-33 mashing of Lake Oswego in the second round of the Nike Interstate Shootout, with an impressive combination of demanding defense that’s become this team’s staple, transition basketball and team depth.

It’s been the Beavers’ ability to instigate their opponents and excavate the basketball from its possession has been paramount in helping Beaverton blow teams out of the water. Oftentimes, in the first half, Beaverton lured Lake Oswego’s ball handlers to the sidelines with token ball pressure only to jump the Lakers with a tormenting trap that caused tons of turnovers.

After struggling with Lynwood (Wash.) and Clackamas at the Southridge Tournament early in the year, the Beavers are once again looking like one of the top teams to beat in the Metro League, thanks to an identity that starts on the defensive end and translates to offense.

“In the beginning of the season, we didn’t really know which defense we wanted to play,” said junior forward Gigi Stoll. “We were kind of confused, everybody wasn’t on the same page. But I think we’re getting to the point where we’re all on the same page and we’re figuring out where we need to be and when we need to be there. It’s really helping us score on the other side.”

“We had tons of effort defensively and we worked really hard,” said sophomore point guard Alyssa Christiansen. “We flew around and pressured the ball. We’re getting on shooters fast and helping each other. We’re playing at a fast tempo.”

On offense, Christiansen said Beaverton needs to pump the brakes and not play at the breakneck pace that it does on defense, though the Beavers used a fastbreaking style to start the game and built an early 14-6 first quarter advantage.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Beaverton senior post Shaunta Jackson gets off a midrange jumper on Lake Oswego's defense in the first quarter of the Beavers' win.

Dagny McConnell scored six points inside and Shaunta Jackson’s lefty lay-up gave Beaverton eight paint points from their posts. Jackson and McConnell took turns securing the block for the Beavers, but there were times when the 6-footers shared the floor and worked Lake Oswego with a sweet high-low game that’s just another offensive dimension for the increasingly confident Beavers.

“We’ve been working on that a lot,” said McConnell. “It’s opened up the post on the low side and the high side so it’s definitely caused us to work on our outside shots and outside game.”

More so, McConnell and Shaunta Jackson helped limit the Lakers to just two offensive rebounds, so the Beavers’ guards like Hartzog and Christiansen were able to get the outlet pass and take off in transition.

“We like to push the tempo, get a lead and just keep going,” said Christiansen. “I thought our defense was doing really well, and we just needed to focus on finishing better and attacking the rim more. We’re focusing more on getting the ball in the paint and kicking it out to shooters.”

Hartzog turned a steal into a score and hit a jumper in the second quarter to open up a 20-6 lead with 6:19 in the second quarter. Christiansen’s fastbreak hoop off a Stoll steal, and Jackson’s offensive board and bucket following a Laker turnover, gave Beaverton a 24-11 lead at intermission.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Beaverton senior guard Danielle Hartzog pulls up in the lane for a jumper against Lake Oswego on Saturday.

“Our defense was really helping us get to our offense,” said Stoll. “We executed really well on offense because of our tempo on defense.”

Beaverton weathered Lake Oswego’s third-quarter storm during which the Lakers went on a 7-0 run and responded with an 11-0 burst to stake claim to a 44-26 lead. Five points from Christiansen, a runner from Allie Mueller and a Jackson hoop off a high-low pass from McConnell kept the Lakers at bay.

“We’re able to move the ball on the inside and the outside,” said McConnell. “We can look for kickouts or duck-ins, all sorts of stuff on different sides of the floor. We have an advantage at every point.”

Stoll and McConnell both said they were disappointed the Beavers didn’t progress up to their standards despite the 21-point blowout win. Letting Lake Oswego back in the game in the third rather than stepping on the Lakers’ throats stood out in the minds of the Beavers’ juniors as reason for dissatisfaction. On Sunday, the Beavers beat South Salem, 54-45, to advance to the Interstate Shootout final.

“We were still able to make some good shots, have some good shots,” said McConnell. “We didn’t really improve, but we were able to get the job done. We secured the lead in the end, which is what we needed.”

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