Girls basketball: Tigard wins its first tourney game since 2003 and earns the 6th-place trophy at the event held at the Rose Garden
by: DAN BROOD SLASHING — Tigard senior Kelsey Kaelin goes to the basket in Saturday’s game with St. Mary’s.

PORTLAND - It's easy to say that it's been a heck of a season for the Tigard High School girls basketball team.

For the Tigers, it's been a season full of fun, heart, camaraderie, hustle, celebration, support, hard work and wins - a whole lot of wins.

It's also been a season full of excitement.

So, it shouldn't be any surprise that, with its season coming to a close, Tigard went out in thrilling fashion.

The Tigers, after trailing St. Mary's Academy by more than 20 points in the fourth quarter of Saturday's Class 6A state tournament fourth-sixth place game, had one more jolt of excitement left in them.

Tigard, never quitting, came up with a furious rally, cutting the lead to eight points late in the game and throwing a scare into the Blues, before falling 66-56 in the contest played at the Rose Garden.

'That says a lot about our character,' Tigard senior post Katie Hollingsworth said after the game. 'We didn't give up - our team has heart.'

'We knew, coming into this game, it would be our last game together,' Tigard senior guard Kelsey Kaelin said. 'We wanted to play with heart and go all out. We did that.'

'It's not the way we wanted it to end, but we fought to the end,' Tigard coach Steve Naylor said. 'I'm very proud of this team. The whole team gave great effort all year. The amount of chemistry we have, and the love the girls have for each other, was amazing to see.'

St. Mary's, the Mt. Hood Conference champion, finished its season with a final overall record of 24-6 to go with the state tournament fourth-place trophy.

Tigard, the Pacific Conference champion, which fell to Oregon City and defeated South Medford in previous state tournament games (see related stories), finished its season at 24-6.

'It was a super-fun season,' said Tigard junior post Maddie Black, who earned second-team all-state tournament honors. 'It was one of the best seasons I've been a part of.'

'The best thing, and why we've been so successful, is that we all care about each other,' Hollingsworth added. 'Overall, I'm proud of our team. Our goal was that we didn't want to leave without getting a win, and we did that.'

'Our team chemistry is the best,' Kaelin said.

Things seemed to start well enough for Tigard in Saturday morning's state-tournament trophy game.

Tigard took its first lead of the game, at 7-6, on a free throw by Kaelin. The Tigers, getting a short-range jumper by freshman guard Lexi Carter, a pair of free throws by Black and a three-pointer by junior Jessica Roshak, went on to claim a 14-10 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

Tigard upped its lead to 18-13 after senior Erin Nyberg converted an eight-foot jump shot off a pass from Carter coming with 5:23 left in the second quarter.

But St. Mary's came back strong. The Blues regained the lead, at 21-20, when junior Sha'Nice Storey sank a three-point basket with 2:42 remaining before halftime.

The Blues upped the margin to 25-22 on a jump shot by Storey coming with 1:15 left in the second quarter. But Tigard, getting a pair of free throws by Kaelin with 51 seconds left in the half, cut the lead to 25-24 at the intermission.

St. Mary's tried to pull away in the third quarter. The Blues took a 36-27 lead on a follow-up basket by sophomore post Emily Rowe coming with 3:54 left in the period.

But Tigard kept battling. Black scored eight points in the third quarter and Hollingsworth put in a jump shot late in the period to keep the Tigers within seven, at 42-35, going into the fourth quarter.

Sophomore Megan Risinger scored on a drive for Tigard early in the final stanza. But that's when the Blues - and Storey - took off.

Storey, showing an amazing long range shooting touch, scored 16 points in a time span of 3:23. Her fourth three-pointer of the quarter, coming from NBA three-point range, gave the Blues a 62-39 lead with 3:12 left in the contest.

At that point, it seemed like the outcome was no longer in doubt. But someone forgot to tell the Tigers.

A pair of free throws by Black, one free throw apiece by seniors Kelsey Walker and Katie Humphrey and a three-pointer by Kaelin got the Tigers within 18, at 64-46, with 1:27 remaining.

Then, with mostly reserves for both teams on the court, the Tigers - with their usual brand of excitement - made things a lot more interesting in a hurry.

Following another jumper by Kaelin, Tigard junior Zoey Garland drilled a three-pointer from the right side of the arc to make the score 64-51 with 54 seconds left.

Then, after Tigard junior post Kaitlyn Yarnell came up with a steal, Garland connected on another three-point basket from nearly the same spot to make the score 64-54 with 32 seconds left.

'That was fun,' Garland said of her back-to-back three-pointers. 'I just wanted to finish strong. It was the last game of the year, and I wanted it to be memorable.'

Garland's two long-range bombs had the Tiger starters on the bench cheering wildly while St. Mary's was putting its starters back in the game.

But that didn't stop Tigard's momentum.

Tiger freshman Emilee Cincotta, after getting the ball from Garland after a steal, drove from the backcourt to score on a layup that made the score 64-56 with 19 seconds left to play.

St. Mary's was able to relax a bit after sophomore Nae Torregano made a pair of free throws to up the Blues' lead to 66-56 with 15.6 seconds left to play.

Tigard, still battling, got off a pair of shots in the final seconds, but neither found the mark, leaving the Blues with the 10-point victory.

'They kept chucking up those threes. And they were from really far out,' Kaelin said. 'But we didn't give up.'

'It was a good way to go out,' Black added. 'I think we had a great season.'

'This season was so fun. It was amazing,' Garland said. 'I couldn't ask for a better team.'

'This is a great group of girls,' Naylor said. 'We're second in the state in GPA, and I'm very proud of that. They just don't give up on the floor, and that's a carryover from the classroom.'

Storey, who was celebrating her 17th birthday, led all scorers in the contest with 27 points. She made 10 of 14 shots from the field, shooing at a 7-for-10 clip from three-point range.

'To score 27 points without shooting a single free throw is amazing,' Naylor said.

Rowe added 11 points and Torregano had 10 for the Blues, who made 25 of 50 shots from the field as a team, going 8-for-16 from beyond the arc.

Black and Kaelin each scored 16 points for the Tigers. Black also had 10 rebounds while Kaelin came up with three steals. Garland had six points and two steals to lead the Tigers' late-game rally. Risinger scored five points and Hollingsworth had five rebounds.

Tigard, as a team, made 18 of 56 shots from the field and 16 of 22 free throws. The Tigers also had just six turnovers in the contest.

Saturday's state tournament contest marked the final high school basketball game for Tigard seniors Walker, Nyberg, Humphrey, Kaelin, Hollingsworth and Kaleen Coker.

'We're very sad to see our six seniors go,' Naylor said. 'We're going to miss them.'

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