The Lions keep close on Tigard's heels with their fifth win in six TRL contests

TIDINGS PHOTO: MILES VANCE - West Linn senior guard Kennedi Byram speeds upcourt during her team's 57-35 home win over Tualatin on Friday.The Tualatin girls basketball team came out strong in its Friday showdown at West Linn.

The Timberwolves rallied from an early deficit and trailed by just two points at the end of the first quarter.

But the Lions, still battling Tigard for a shot at the 2018 Three Rivers League title, weren't going to let this one slip away.

They forged a 24-point advantage in the game's middle two quarters, forced 14 Tualatin turnovers in that same stretch and used that to fuel their 57-35 victory at West Linn High School.

"(The key) was just going in knowing that we wanted to win," said West Linn freshman post Aaronette Vonleh, who led all scorers with 21 points on Friday. "That's what helped us keep fighting until the fourth quarter."

"I think once we got our defense together and all of our team was finally working together on defense, it was good," said West Linn senior guard Kennedi Byram, who added nine points and four assists.

With the win, West Linn's third straight, the Lions improved to 5-1 in Three Rivers League play and 12-2 overall. The Wolves, meanwhile, lost for the second straight time and saw their record fall to 2-2 in league play and 7-7 overall.

While Tualatin left disappointed with the result, the Timberwolves also left knowing that they can play with the Lions, outscoring West Linn 18-16 in the game's first and fourth quarters.

"We wanted to run up and down the floor and tire out (Vonleh) because she isn't the fastest and we have a lot of girls who can run the floor, but we didn't do that enough tonight," said Tualatin senior guard Mikah Springer, who finished with six points in the loss.

"We had a few good runs, but we kind of let up a little bit in the second and third quarters," added Tualatin freshman post Natalie Lathrop, who led her team with 12 points. "If we would have put the first and fourth quarter together and had that the whole game, it would have been different."

Byram helped the Lions get off to a fast start by hitting a 3-pointer and two free throws in the first quarter to give her team a 9-7 lead, while Tualatin senior Maija Girardi did her part to keep the Wolves close with two baskets and five points of her own.

While neither team shot well in the first quarter, the Lions began to heat up in the second frame, knocking down 8 of 14 shots from the field (including two 3-pointers) while their defense held Tualatin to a 3 of 9 period and forced eight turnovers.

West Linn senior guard Lexie Pritchard stepped up with two 3-pointers in the quarter, but the Lions really cashed in with Vonleh in the post. Vonleh, at 6-foot-3, knocked down 5 of 6 shots from the floor in the period and scored 11 points in just over five minutes to give West Linn a 28-15 edge at halftime.

"We just work better together when we all bond together. We create better plays and we play better defense," Vonleh said. "We're all on the same page."

"The main thing was basically covering Vonleh … because she's bigger than all of us," Springer said. "She can score points both left-handed and right-handed so we made an adjustment so that two people were on her at all times, but it was a good game for her."

The Lions kept the heat on in the third quarter, too, getting another big period from Vonleh — she hit 4 of 5 shots from the field and her lone free throw for nine more points — four straight foul shots from senior Lizzy Herrick and a 3-pointer by Brooke Landis to extend their lead to a commanding 50-24 edge.

While the Wolves were outscored 22-9 in the period, Lathrop got her game into gear by hitting three consecutive shots in the final 3:05 of the quarter.

"I'm tall, so a lot of people I can shoot over, but with (Vonleh), I definitely can't so you have to be more creative," Lathrop said. "But if you can get away from her a little bit, it's a lot easier."

While the Lions were solidly in control of the contest by then, the Timberwolves kept playing hard, began to score more regularly and closed the game with their best quarter.

Lathrop and junior Natali Denning scored twice each in the fourth quarter while Springer buried her second 3-pointer of the game to help Tualatin outscore the Lions 11-7 in the final frame.

For the game, the Lions went 20 of 52 from the field (with four 3-pointers), 13 of 17 at the foul line and committed 16 turnovers. Tualatin hit just 15 of 49 shots from the field (with three 3-pointers) and 2 of 7 foul shots while turning the ball over 25 times.

Vonleh went 10 of 14 shooting from the floor and 1 of 2 at the foul line for her 21 points. Lathrop went 6 of 9 for her 12 points and missed all three of her free throw attempts.

Next up, West Linn hosts Lakeridge at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday and plays at Sherwood at 5:45 p.m. Jan. 19. Tualatin plays at Tigard at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday and at Sherwood at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Contact Sports Editor Miles Vance at 503-330-0127 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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