The senior leader ignites a fire at crunch time in a 59-48 win over West Linn

by: PHOTOJONATHAN HOUSE - With determination, Clackamas senior leader Deeshyra Thomas (24) takes the ball up the floor against full-court pressure late in last Fridays game with West Linn.West Linn is without most of the key players from last year’s girls basketball team that upset Oregon City at the Class 6A State High School Basketball Tournament.

But anyone counting the Lions out in the race for a berth in this year’s state tournament had better think again. The Lions have reloaded, and they gave the third-ranked Clackamas Cavaliers a run for their money on Friday.

West Linn lost Friday’s game 59-48, but the score was tied at 45-45 with 5:40 to play. West Linn went 0-for-6 from the field and turned the ball over four times in the final 5:40.

Veteran wing Deeshyra Thomas earned heroine honors for the Cavaliers. After sitting big minutes in foul trouble, the 5-8 senior returned to the court and ignited a spark.

She stole the ball in the halfcourt and took the ball to the basket for a 3-point play that put the Cavaliers up for good, at 48-45, with 4:40 left to play.

Thomas answered another Lion turnover with an inside bucket with 3:18 remaining to up the gap to 50-45.

Following yet another Lion turnover, senior wing Vanessa Oakden found nothing but net from the corner to make it 53-45, and the game belonged to Clackamas.

Thomas tallied a game-high 20 points in just under 20 minutes of playing time. Sydney Azorr (11 points) and Erica Pagano (10 points) also reached double digits in scoring. Thomas also had a team-high seven rebounds.

Clackamas opened up a 13-3 lead to start the game, and the Cavaliers led most of the way. But Thomas got in early foul trouble and every time Thomas went to the bench, the Lions closed the gap. Thomas drew her fourth foul just 1-1/2 minutes into the second half.

“Deeshyra is like a leader when she’s on the floor,” said Clackamas junior playmaker Kaitlyn Reiner. “She always gets us going. She picks up the intensity on defense, which creates offense. And then we get momentum....”

“I don’t usually get in foul trouble,” Thomas said. “Some of the calls were not good calls, but I do need to move my feet more.”

West Linn had a balanced attack, led by 6-3 junior Morgan Haskin (11 points), 5-5 junior Ashley Johnson (11 points) and 5-8 sophomore Sidney Kolasinski (11 points, 6 assists). Haskin was 5-of-6 from the field and she had five blocked shots.

“I’m not surprised they gave us a game, because West Linn always gives us a game,” Thomas said.

“They always come after us,” Reiner said.

“This game was good for some of my younger kids,” Clackamas coach Todd Lane said. “They learned what a Three Rivers League game is like. They’re a lot more intense than preseason. Three Rivers League teams get after it....”

With the win, the Cavaliers upped their season record to 12-3.

“We feel pretty good about where we’re at,” Thomas said. “We’ve come out a lot stronger than other people expected. We want to show people we’re better than they think we are, that we’re a good basketball team.”

“[The fact that people didn’t expect much from us] has made us want to work that much harder,” Reiner said. “We’ve been working hard, and we’re getter better every day.”

The Cavaliers face a stiff test this Friday, when they entertain top-ranked Oregon City (12-1, 1-0). The two teams met in Lake Oswego’s Nike Interstate Shootout on Dec. 30 and Oregon City won in a 61-36 rout.

Lane said, following that game, “Playing them on the fourth day of a four-day tournament with no time to prepare is very tough, especially when you’ve got a young team. We’re a team that needs a couple of days to prepare to play Oregon City.... Hopefully, in two weeks, when we meet them on Jan. 18, we’ll be better prepared and we’ll give them a better game.”

After a slow start, Clackamas coeds took care of business in a preseason game with Lincoln on Jan. 8, winning 58-43. The Cavaliers broke the game open in the third stanza, when they outscored their guests 20-9.

“We’ve had some issues all year with starting slow,” Lane said. “We seem to pick it up a bit in the second and third quarters. That’s what we did this time. We got some stops, limited their shots, and made ours.”

Reiner (11 points), Azorr (11 points) and Thomas (10 points) headed a balanced Cavalier offense that saw 10 players score.

Thomas (11 rebounds) and Pagano (8 rebounds) led the Cavaliers to a 42-33 edge on the backboards.

Lane said he was somewhat concerned by his charges’ carelessness in handling the basketball.

“We had 29 turnovers,” he noted.

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