Hilhi girls running on all cylinders following a lopsided playoff victory against West Salem

All season long, the girls on the Hillsboro basketball team have been saying they are on a mission.

On Tuesday, the Spartans sure played like it. Hosting West Salem in a Class 6A first round playoff game, Hilhi put together perhaps its most complete effort of the season in a 49-30 dismantling of the Titans.

Led by a double-double from Tarea Green and nearly another one from Lauren Lykins, 14th-seeded Hilhi (19-7) hit a double-digit lead with its first bucket of the second quarter and never looked back against No. 19 West Salem (13-12), the co-runner-up of the Central Valley Conference.

With the victory, the Spartans advanced out of the first round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2009, when the team advanced to the Class 5A state tournament.

“They came in confident. They came in ready to play,” said Sara Harsin, who picked up her first playoff victory as the Spartans’ head coach. “We had film on West Salem. We knew what they were going to do. We know that they wanted to run it, and we knew that we did not want them to run it, so we did a good job getting back, denying them that opportunity.

“We did a heck of a job handling their pressure. They put a lot of pressure on the ball, they put a lot of pressure on our guards in general, and we were still able to handle the pressure, find (Green ) inside, find Makenna (Gambee).”

The Spartans also applied plenty of pressure of their own. They trailed only once in the contest, when the Titans’ Paige Whipple opened up the scoring with two free throws. Hilhi went on an 8-0 run from there and did not miss a beat even when Green picked up her second foul with about two minutes remaining in the first quarter and went to the bench, where she remained well into the second quarter.

“The girls had my back, and it was awesome,” said Green, who still finished with a game-high 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Despite Green’s lengthy absence, the Spartans held the Titans to a miniscule three field goals in the first half (3-for-24) while shooting better than 60 percent (14-for-23) on their own end to build a 28-11 halftime advantage.

Lykins, Hilhi’s do-everything senior guard, had a lot to do with that, as did Gambee, the team’s talented freshman guard. Lykins was a whirling, driving, ball-distributing dervish all game long, notching 11 points and nine assists. Two of her most impressive dishes came about 15 seconds apart late in the first quarter, when Lykins found an on-the-run Gambee, who finished both times at the hoop for a 12-4 Spartans advantage.

Those scores came during quite a run for the 6-foot-1 Gambee, who scored all 10 of her points during a six-minute span from midway through the first quarter to early in the second.

“I wanted to play like I like to play and how I know I can play,” Gambee said.

Gambee was also active on defense, with her long frame constantly harassing the Titans at the top of the Spartans’ zone defense. She also contributed three steals, two rebounds and an assist to the Spartans’ cause.

“She played great,” Harsin said. “She played like how I know she is capable of playing. She played very, very well, offensively, defensively. She was big-time for us in that first half.”

Hilhi did not shoot the ball at quite the same clip in the second half but never allowed West Salem back in the contest. The Spartans led by 20 points or more for much of the final 16 minutes and by as many as 25.

West Salem senior Bailey Olson led her team with seven points in her final high school game. Delaney Henery added six and Whipple chipped in five. For Hilhi, Cheyanne Seeley contributed seven points, six rebounds and two steals.

With the victory, the Spartans advanced to a second-round game at St. Mary’s Academy, which opened the playoffs a 68-53 winner against Sunset. The round of 16 contest between the Spartans and the Blues is slated for 5 p.m. today, with the winner advancing to next week’s state tournament at the Moda Center in Portland.

In No. 3 St. Mary’s (21-4), the Spartans face a team that has not lost since December and enters the second round on an 18-game win streak. The Blues’ three losses to in-state teams came at the hands of No. 9 West Linn, No. 5 Beaverton and No. 7 Tigard.

The Blues are talented — and tall, with three players 6-foot or taller — but they have just one senior in 6-0 guard/post Cece Wooten.

Hilhi comes into the game on a high note.

“We played well,” Harsin said about Tuesday’s effort. “We’re playing our best basketball right now. That’s the best game I’ve seen the kids play.”

Now the Spartans get to see if they can keep their mission going.

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