by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Beaverton's Alyssa Christiansen celebrates a playoff win over Clackamas.

Sydney Azorr,—the best of the Cavaliers— dribbled into the lane and rose for a 10-foot jumper, normally a good shot for the Clackamas guard and, one she drilled time and time again versus Beaverton in the preseason.

Except this time, Azorr had too much company, four fervent Beavers surrounding her with their arms held high and hands swinging at the basketball. Azorr missed, something she and the Cavaliers did repeatedly in the 6A quarterfinals on March 12 at the Moda Center.

And, a jump-started Beaverton team dominated the contest defensively while monopolizing the basketball for a 40-26 win to advance to the 6A semifinals against South Medford on Thursday.

“To do so well as a team, it just feels so great,” said Beaverton sophomore guard Alyssa Christiansen who had nine points and five rebounds. “It’s exciting to go on to the semifinals. It’s really huge.”

Beaverton surged to a 12-5 lead by holding Clackamas scoreless for nearly five minutes in the first quarter. The Beavers spread their respected 2-3 zone out past the NBA three-point line, closed quickly on open shooters and forced the Cavaliers to put the ball on the deck.

Once Clackamas dribbled the rock, Christiansen, Allison Mueller, Danielle Hartzog, Gigi Stoll and Dagny McConnell swarmed it with the type of teeming aggression that took away the Cavs’ air space and ability to see the floor.

“We definitely were able to stop the drives to the basket, and it was hard for them to score when they weren’t near the hoop,” said McConnell.

The Beavers went on a 6-0 run as Hartzog put home an offensive board then Christiansen hopped into the lane, drew the defense and dished around a pair of Cavs to McConnell for a hoop to give Beaverton a 7-3 lead.

Hartzog floated home one of her patented high-lofting teardrops that was created off Christiansen’s dribble-drive action and, Lexus Miller-Moyan made a free throw to push the lead to 10-3.

Toward the end of the first, Mueller drove hard to the rim, collided with a Clackamas defender, but kept her eyes on the rim through the contact and finished off the glass as she tumbled to the floor to push Beaverton’s advantage to 12-5.

Stoll said Beaverton’s strong start didn’t let Clackamas dictate the pace of play. Rather, Beaverton took custody of the game’s momentum early, something it didn’t do when the Cavs clipped the Beavers twice in the preseason.

“That was our big goal in the first four minutes, to start off playing our game, and not worry about (Clackamas),” said Stoll, who had four rebounds. “That caught them off guard in the first four minutes. And, we were able to keep up the tempo the whole game.”

Hartzog hit a baseline jumper to start the second quarter that gave Beaverton a 14-5 boon. Shaunta Jackson rebounded her own miss and powered a righty lay-up in off the glass. Later, a wide-open Mueller steps into a three from top of the key to give Beaverton a 19-12 halftime bump.

“We came out knowing we had to come out strong right away,” said Christiansen. “We had to push tempo.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Beaverton's Dagny McConnell comes down with the ball against Clackamas.

Last week, when Christiansen said Beaverton could improve on defense, a reasonable response might have been: really?

The 2-3 zone-dependent Beavers were already incredible at that end of the court. Yet, Christiansen was right. Beaverton played exceptional defense, both individually and as an ensemble. The Beavers held Clackamas to 27.6 percent from the field and just 16.7 percent from three-point land. Azorr was 1-6 from the floor while Colorado Mesa University commit Kaitlyn Reiner was just 2-10 including 2-7 from three-point land.

Mueller led Beaverton with five steals, while Hartzog and Christiansen each had three.

“We were flying around and getting each other’s backs,” said Christiansen. “We played good help defense and got around the court to their open players and shooters. We didn’t want them to score from the outside. I thought we were in control of the game defensively. We had great pressure on the ball.”

Clackamas got as close as 21-17 in the third quarter, but Mueller sniped Reiner with a physical pickpocket that Christiansen cleaned up and finished for two to give Beaverton a six-point lead. Miller-Moyan made two free throws and Christiansen converted another steal into a score to give the Beavers a 27-20 advantage going into the fourth.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Beaverton's Danielle Hartzog grabs the loose ball against Clackamas.

“We really kept our composure on the court and that had a really big impact,” said Stoll. “We weren’t worried about what (Clackamas) was going to do. We just wanted to do our thing and be confident on the court.”

Beaverton took exceptional care of the basketball, turning it over just six times against an aggressive, handsy Clackamas defense that tried to protract its pressure on the outside. The Beavers shot just 31.7 percent as a team, but they made up for the poor shooting by pounding the offensive glass (12 offensive boards) and getting to the free throw (13-24 at the charity stripe).

If the drive wasn’t there, Christiansen said, she’d pull the ball back out to the perimeter and patiently wait for the Beavers’ offense to settle.

“Getting the ball to the hoop and getting rebounds were our biggest things to do,” said McConnell. “Danielle (Hartzog) and Allie (Mueller) crashed the boards and were able to get shots off the glass. That definitely helped us in the long run.”

In the fourth, Hartzog scored twice on lefty lay-ins after the Beavers broke the Cavs’ fullcourt pressure to go up 31-22 with six minutes to go. Stoll dished to Hartzog who drove left, found McConnell in the middle of the zone for the short 10-foot jumper to extend the lead to 34-22.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Beaverton players celebrate their win over Clackamas.

Christansen and Hartzog combined to shoot 7-8 at the free throw line in the game’s final minutes to ward off any hope of a miraculous comeback.

Hartzog led the Beavers with 13 points. Mueller had five points, as did McConnell while Miller-Moyan had five. McConnell led the Beavers with six rebounds.

“We played really smart basketball offensively,” said Christiansen. “We looked for open gaps and waited to make the move to the basket when it was there. I felt like we were really in control offensively. And, it helped us to find each other and open shooters.”

The quarterfinal win was a far cry from last year’s 6A state tournament disappointment when the Beavers went two-and-out and didn’t place at the Moda Center.

This time around, Beaverton looked calm and confident from the start. They’ve been through this experience before, the different arena, the bigger crowds and high intensity of physical tournament basketball. The Beavers settled in early because of the familiarity and flourished from start to finish.

“It felt a little more natural to step on the court because we’ve been here before,” said McConnell. “We deserve to be here, so that was a big confidence boost in our play. It was a lot easier for us to get into our rhythm. It wasn’t as intimidating as the first time.”

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