The Tigard girls reach the semifinals and place fifth at the state tournament

by: DAN BROOD - ALL TOGETHER -- The Tigard HIgh School girls basketball team gathered around the fifth place trophy Saturday at the Class 6A state tournament. Pictured are (top row, from left) assistant coach Heidi DeHaan, Elise Conroy, Courtney Roshak, Faithe Wantland, Lexi Carter, assistant coach Wes Pappas, Julia Santos, Ashley Holzgang, Jessica King, Hannah Armstead, head coach Steve Naylor, assistant coach McKenzie Coulson, assistant coach Kelley Brack, (front row) Emilee Cincotta, Megan Risinger, Meeka Mayhew and Stephanie King. PORTLAND — One vote.

Just one, single, solitary, little 10th-place vote.

That’s all the Tigard High School girls basketball team garnered in the 2012-2013 Class 6A preseason coaches poll.

Well, the Tigers ended up doing better than that.

Much better.

Tigard, likely exceeding all expectations except its own, finished the 2012-2013 campaign playing on the last possible day of the season and earning the OSAA Class 6A state tournament fifth-place trophy.

“It was a dream come true, personally for me,” Tigard senior post Megan Risinger said Saturday after the Tigers finished play at the state tournament, which was held at the Rose Garden Arena.

“It’s great,” Tigard junior guard Emilee Cincotta said of winning a state tourney trophy. “No one expected us to do this. It’s been a great season — one of my favorites.”

It’s a season that saw Tigard put together a final overall record of 24-6 while going a perfect 14-0 in Pacific Conference play. In postseason action, the Tigers scored state playoff wins over Centennial and Jesuit to earn a spot in the Class 6A state tournament.

At the tournament, Tigard scored an impressive quarterfinal win over Clackamas and nearly shocked defending state champion South Medford in the semifinals (see related stories on both of those contests) before falling to Oregon City in Saturday’s tourney third/fifth-place game.

“It was a great season and we have a great team,” Tigard junior guard Lexi Carter said. “We all played with a lot of heart. We’re taking some hardware home. It’s been a good year.”

“It was a great ride,” Tigard coach Steve Naylor said. “We had a great year. We exceeded a lot of expectations — outside our own locker room. Our goal at the beginning of the season was to get to the Rose Garden. We did that, and I had a blast.”

“I have been so fortunate,” said Risinger, who is one of three seniors on the Tigard squad. “This group made it so special. They put their heart and soul into it every day. And I was so glad to know that I’d play my last game here.”

That last game may not have gone the way the Tigers wanted it — they fell 68-29 to hot-shooting Oregon City in Saturday’s tourney third/fifth-place game — but that didn’t come close to putting a damper on Tigard’s season.

“I had a ton of fun,” said Cincotta, who ranked second among all tournament competitors with 11 steals in three tourney games. “We were truly a family, and that really helped. And I think we all grew as people.”

In Saturday’s third-place game, Tigard, coming off an emotionally and physically draining semifinal game with South Medford that ended less than 18 hours earlier, found itself facing an early daunting deficit.

The hot-shooting Pioneers, who came into the contest with a 25-2 record, got early three-point baskets from senior Montana Walters and junior Jessica Gertz on their way to opening up a 12-1 lead before the game was even three-minutes old.

Tigard cut the margin to 12-3 on a bank shot by Carter coming with 3 minutes and 45 seconds left to play in the first quarter.

But Oregon City answered that basket with an 8-0 run that included a three-pointer by junior Alyssa Darr.

The Tigers ended that run with a pair of free throws by Cincotta, but the Pioneers finished the period with back-to-back baskets by senior Amber Fifield and freshman Cierra Walker, giving Oregon City a 24-5 lead going into the second quarter.

The Pioneers shot at a 10-for-14 clip from the field with three three-point baskets in the opening period.

Oregon City carried its momentum into the second quarter, scoring the first seven points of the period to open up a 31-5 advantage.

The Tigers got a pair of free throws from both Carter and freshman post Elise Conroy and a basket on a drive to the hoop by Carter to make the score 39-11 at halftime.

Tigard was able to get its offense on track a bit in the third quarter.

Conroy scored on a layup off a pass from Cincotta to start the period. Senior Julia Santos added a short-range bank shot, Junior post Stephanie King swished a foul-line jumper and Carter and Risinger both went 2-for-2 from the free-throw line late in the period to make the score 55-21 going into the fourth quarter.

In the final stanza for Tigard, King scored on a step-over move to the hoop, Cincotta converted a put-back opportunity, Carter had three free throws and junior Courtney Roshak added a foul shot.

But Oregon City, continuing to have the hot hand from start to finish, pulled away for the 68-29 win.

For the game, the Pioneers made 26 of 45 shots from the field (57.8 percent), while sinking eight of their 15 attempts from three-point range.

“Oh my gosh. They shot very well and passed very well,” Risinger said of the Pioneers. “They deserve everything they got.”

“They have so much talent,” Naylor said. “And they move the ball so well.”

Still, the Tigers seemed to battle to the very end of the contest, despite the fact that they were coming off the demanding semifinal game the night before.

“We gave it everything we had last night,” Cincotta said. “But we still fought to the end. We never gave up.”

“We always keep trying,” Carter said.

“That’s the Tigard way,” Risinger said. “We’ll never give up.”

Carter was Tigard’s leading scorer in the third/fifth-place game with 11 points. She also had a pair of steals.

Cincotta added four points and three steals. Conroy and King scored four points apiece. Senior Meeka Mayhew topped the Tigers with three rebounds and Santos had a pair of steals.

Tigard made seven of 32 shots from the field in the contest.

Walters led a balanced Oregon City scoring attack with 11 points. Senior Jo Paine added nine points for the Pioneers.

The tournament contest marked the final high school game for Tigard’s three seniors, Mayhew, Risinger and Santos.

“It’s just sinking in that we’re going to really miss our three seniors,” Naylor said after Saturday’s game. “Next year, we’ll really miss Megan’s leadership. She just willed us at times.”

“We’ll miss them so much,” Cincotta said. “I love them, and they inspired me to be a better player and a better person.”

Risinger, the Pacific Conference Player of the Year, will continue her scholastic basketball career next year at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho.

“I’m looking forward to that,” she said. “But I’ll always remember what we did here at Tigard. Those are memories I’ll never forget.”

Tigard, led by Carter and Cincotta, looks to have the potential to be a strong team again in the 2013-2014 season.

“We’ll be back,” Carter said. “We’ll have a feisty group next year.”

“I can’t wait until next year,” Cincotta said. “We have a lot of hard workers.”

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