OSAA Tournament: Girls
by: L.E. BASKOW, Central Catholic’s Becky Goll (middle) fights for a rebound with Forest Grove’s Nicole Kemper and Taylor Janac (right) in a state playoff game last week. The top-ranked Rams look for their first girls state basketball title when the Oregon School Activities Association Class 6A tourney kicks off Wednesday at the Chiles Center.

Central Catholic enters the Class 6A state tournament at the Chiles Center as the top-ranked girls basketball team, some rarefied air even for the seven-time Mount Hood Conference champs.

Ten-time champ Oregon City and two-time defending champ Southridge, two other teams vying for the state title, usually hold down the top spot.

The Rams (24-2) play Oregon City (22-4) at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday in one of four quarterfinal games.

The 5A girls tourney also takes place at the Chiles Center, with four quarterfinal games Thursday, including the 3:15 p.m. match between No. 1 Jefferson (24-1) against Hermiston (18-8), a team the Democrats beat twice in the preseason.

Central accepts its No. 1 Class 6A ranking.

'You never like having the target on your back,' coach Sandy Dickerson says. 'The girls have handled it really well. It doesn't faze them. It's just a ranking, and it doesn't mean anything until you get things done on the court.'

Central Catholic returns its entire team to the Chiles Center, where the Rams went 0-2 last year. In four previous years, the school won trophies: second in 2005, sixth in 2004 and fourth in 2003 and 2002. The school hasn't won a girls hoop championship.

'We have a little bit more experience and we've played longer together. We have better team chemistry,' says sophomore star Kate Lanz, the league MVP.

The young Rams were overwhelmed at the Chiles Center last year and lost an early game to Reynolds this season.

'We're so much closer this year,' post Becky Goll says. 'Our chemistry … we've went through our ups and downs. Losing the game in conference really helped us realize that if we didn't really work hard and as a team, we wouldn't go very far.'

Lanz will play hurt

Point guard Marija Boise runs the team, and the Rams have good scorers in seniors Goll and Audrey Miller, who has been injured most of the season. A lot of the offense goes through the 5-10 Lanz, who averages 14 points.

She has good skills, a knack for scoring and an intense toughness. She injured her left, nonshooting hand last weekend against Roseburg, but she expects to play through the pain.

'She's an awesome player,' Goll says. 'She gets down low to the basket and finishes strongly.'

'She actually grew up being a post player,' Dickerson says. 'She understands what post play is about and how things work. She knows when posts want the ball. She'll do things for us inside and outside - depends on the game and what they're giving us.'

If Miller can provide some offense, the Rams might have enough potency to beat Oregon City. Miller averages 11 points per game, despite ankle and groin issues that have affected her conditioning and impact.

'She has the heart of a tiger,' Lanz says.

'We also know, as important as she is, we have to have a healthy body in there,' Dickerson says. 'We have other people who are really good free-throw shooters and ballhandlers' who also can play.

Dickerson wants Goll to play more of an outside role, especially with post players healthy now.

Pioneers will be dangerous

Oregon City (22-4) lost to Southridge in the 2006 final. Longtime assistant Kurt Guelsdorf replaced Brad Smith as head coach, and the Pioneers tied Lake Oswego for first in the Three Rivers League despite playing most of the year without point guard Sarah Boyd.

Boyd blew out her knee in soccer and returned to the hardwood in the second half of the season. The Pioneers have been led by Kelly Marchant (13 points per game), Whitney Chase and Stephanie Buhler.

It's a typical OC team -full-court defense with some size and quickness, good shooters -with some 'new twists' under the new head coach, Dickerson says.

'Kelly Marchant has a great jumper,' Goll says.

Lanz says of the first-round showdown: 'I'd rather have a tough game first round than have a blowout game. I like the challenge. I think the rest of my team likes the challenge.'

The Rams feel good about themselves after excelling on offense for most of the year and then buckling down on defense against Roseburg. Central beat the Indians 41-26, holding them scoreless for the first 7:31.

Establishing defensive presence will be important at state, Goll says. 'We can't play from behind,' she says.

The Rams have fairly dominated the MHC in recent years. One drawback is that they haven't had a lot of experience closing out games.

'That's continuously been one of our issues,' Dickerson says. 'It's harder mentally to play close games.'

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