Tigard steps up to get quarterfinal win over Clackamas

by: DAN BROOD - BIG WIN -- The Tigers, including (from left) Megan Risinger, Emilee Cincotta, Lexi Carter, Elise Conroy and Meeka Mayhew celebrate following their win over Clackamas.PORTLAND —The Tigard High School girls basketball team was hoping to get off to a good start to the OSAA Class 6A state tournament.

Well, thanks to their always-inspired defensive effort, some clutch free throw shooting and an amazing final 14 seconds of play by senior Meeka Mayhew, the Tigers started the tourney with a bang — and an impressive victory.

Tigard, stepping up and taking charge in the final minute of the contest, scored a 34-30 win over Clackamas in a state tournament quarterfinal game played last Thursday at the Rose Garden Arena.

“This is great,” said Tigard junior guard Emilee Cincotta, who had 11 points and three steals in the win. “It was a real team win.”

“We’re ecstatic,” added Tigard senior post Megan Risinger, who pulled down a game-high 17 rebounds. “We wanted this so bad.”

Clackamas, which scored a 35-29 win over the Tigers back in December, moved to 21-6 on the season with the setback.

Tigard, the Pacific Conference champion, improved to 24-4 on the season at that point with the victory. The Tigers also earned a spot in the state tournament semifinals for the first time since 1989.

“I can’t even put into words how we feel,” said Mayhew, who had a tipped pass that led to a turnover, a key offensive rebound and a pair of free throws all coming in the crucial final 14 seconds of the game.

“Five months ago, no one thought we’d be here,” Risinger said with a smile.

“It’s crazy,” Tigard coach Steve Naylor said. “But the girls have a lot of confidence, and they played tough tonight.”

And the Tigers looked to be tough right from the start of the contest.

Clackamas took a 3-2 lead on a follow-up basket by junior Sydney Azorr with 6 minutes and 49 seconds left in the first quarter. But Tigard took charge from there.

The Tigers, getting six points from Cincotta and a basket on an 8-foot jumper by junior guard Lexi Carter, ended the period on an 8-0 run, giving Tigard a 10-3 lead going into the second quarter.

The Tigard defense continued its strong play in the second period, limiting the Cavaliers to eight points on 3-for-12 shooting.

But the Tigers also struggled on the offensive end in the period. The scored six points, coming on baskets by Carter, Cincotta and freshman post Elise Conroy, leaving them with a 16-11 lead at halftime.

Cincotta converted a three-point play, coming off an assist from Risinger, to open the third quarter, upping the Tiger lead to 19-11 at that point. But Tigard wouldn’t score again in the period until Risinger put in a follow-up shot with 2:58 left in the quarter.

Fortunately for the Tigers, their defense limited Clackamas to four points, all scored by senior Deeshrya Thomas, in that span. Carter and Thomas traded baskets late in the period, giving Tigard a 23-17 lead going into the fourth quarter.

That’s when things got really tense.

Tigard got off to a strong start to the final stanza. Behind a layup by Mayhew, a pair of free throws by Risinger and a foul shot by senior Julia Santos, the Tigers opened a 28-21 advantage with 5:58 left to play in the game.

But that’s when Clackamas came storming back.

The Cavaliers put together an 8-0 run, which was capped off by a 6-foot jumper by Thomas — giving Clackamas a 29-28 lead with 2:56 left in the game.

But Tigard, which watched the Cavaliers put together a fourth-quarter rally in the teams’ meeting earlier in the season, didn’t panic.

“We just had to calm down,” Cincotta said. “I never wanted to give up. The first time we played them, we made some bad mistakes. We just needed to take care of the ball.”

The Tigers did that — and more.

Carter scored on a baseline drive to regain the lead for Tigard, at 30-29, with 1:32 left in the game.

Clackamas junior post Erica Pagano was fouled with 56.5 seconds left and she went 1-for-2 from the stripe to tie the game at 30-30.

Tigard, after running some time off the clock, called time out with 39.9 seconds remaining, setting a play to get the final shot.

“For us, 39 seconds is nothing,” Risinger said. “We know a lot can happen.”

Carter was fouled away from the ball with 24.8 seconds left to play. She went to the free throw line in a one-and-one situation and calmly sank both of her foul shots to give Tigard a 32-30 edge.

Now, it was time for Mayhew to spring into action. With 14 seconds left, she tipped a Clackamas pass, with Cincotta grabbing the ball.

Cincotta was then fouled with 9.0 seconds remaining. She went to the line in a one-and-one situation and she misfired on her first attempt. However, Mayhew, soaring upward, grabbed the offensive rebound.

“She always does that,” Risinger said.

Mayhew was immediately fouled, sending her to the foul line in a one-and-one situation with 7.2 seconds remaining. Mayhew then sank both of her free throws to up the margin to 34-30.

“That was a great sequence by Meeka,” Naylor said.

“I don’t even know what happened,” Mayhew said. “I usually freak out. But my whole family was here, and we all wanted this really bad.”

A last-second Clackamas shot was off the mark, leaving Tigard with the 34-30 quarterfinal victory.

“We just wanted to prove everyone wrong,” Cincotta said. “We deserved to be here.”

“It was a great team effort, all the way down to the girls on the bench,” Naylor said. “And our coaching staff did an awesome job. This was such a team game and a team win.”

“We knew it’d be physical,” Risinger said. “We stepped up on defense and in rebounding.”

Risinger did most of the damage for Tigard on the boards with her 17 rebounds, including 15 on the defensive end.

“That’s just ridiculous,” Naylor said.

“I knew we had to get every rebound we could,” Risinger said. “And I wanted it so bad.”

Carter paced the Tigers with 12 points in the victory. Cincotta had two assists and a blocked shot to go with her 11 points and three steals. Conroy was a defensive force inside with five blocked shots and Mayhew pulled down seven rebounds.

Tigard, as a team, made 11 of 39 shots from the field and 12 of 14 free-throw attempts.

Azorr led Clackamas with 13 points and Thomas added 10 points and 11 rebounds. The Cavaliers made 12 of 54 shots from the field against Tigard’s defense.

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