TIGARD -- It’s no secret that sophomore-dominated West Linn is a team to watch for the future.
After what the Lions did Wednesday night, though, the Lions can’t be overlooked in the present.
Sophomore guard Audrey Roden drove for a go-ahead layup with 16 seconds left and West Linn survived a frantic final possession to win 47-45 at Tigard in a Three Rivers League girls basketball game.
The No. 8 Lions (15-4, 8-1) not only pulled into a first-place tie with No. 3 Tigard (17-3, 8-1) -- the three-time reigning Three Rivers champion -- but they also ended the Tigers’ 28-game league winning streak.
“It showed that we could do it,” Roden said. “We’re really young. All of our sophomores are only 15 still. We’ve beaten some good basketball teams, but we haven’t beaten an elite team.
“Tonight we proved to ourselves that we can beat an elite team. Because Tigard, they beat Southridge early in the season. So I think that shows that we’re right up there with them. I don’t think before tonight that we knew it. But I think we know that now.”
It was West Linn’s seventh consecutive win since losing at home to Tigard 63-46 on Jan. 11.
“I just love this team so much,” Lions coach Brooke Cates said. “We’ve had some girls injured and back, and we’ve just been gradually piecing it all together. For them to come out and beat a great team like Tigard, it’s just such a thrill for all of us.”
The win gives West Linn a boost for the stretch run.
“At the beginning of the season, we weren’t as confident as we are now,” Lions sophomore post Aaronette Vonleh said. “We never really felt like we could come out and beat teams like this. But I think the whole time we just had to believe in ourselves.”
The Lions led 24-17 at half as the 6-foot-4 Vonleh used her size to get deep position and made 8 of 9 shots for 16 points. They held that lead throughout the third quarter, and when Roden drove for back-to-back baskets to start the fourth quarter, it was 38-27.
The Tigers countered with an 8-0 run, getting two three-pointers from junior guard Kennedy Brown, to close within 38-35. Led by senior guard Campbell Gray, Tigard nipped at West Linn’s heels the rest of the way, finally pulling even at 45-45 on a driving hoop by Gray with 53 seconds left.
The Lions called timeout with 35 seconds remaining to set up a play. They looked inside to Vonleh, but when she was surrounded, Roden found a driving lane on the back side and scored to make it 47-45. Roden scored 10 of her 13 points in the fourth quarter.
“I knew they were going to focus on Aaronette, so we snuck Audrey on the back cut, away from the ball, and bam, wide open,” Cates said. “She can finish, and she’s a gamer. She’s somebody you want to have the ball in crunch time like that.”
Tigard decided to forgo a timeout and put the ball in the hands of Gray. She got a good look at a three-pointer at the top of the arc but missed with about five seconds left, and when senior post Dani Lyons’ wild putback attempt went awry, the Lions had escaped.
“I’ve seen her make that how many times,” Cates said of the three-point attempt by Gray. “She’s amazing. Trying to contain her is a difficult task.”
Tigard had its own issues with guarding Vonleh. The Tigers were able to slow her down in the second half after switching from zone to man-to-man, but she finished with 21 points on 10-for-11 shooting and had five rebounds.
“I think maybe we had the wrong defensive plan,” Tigard coach Steve Naylor said. “We were so worried about Vonleh, we had to bring help from somewhere else, and we didn’t have ball pressure. That’s just not us. We played better when we went to man. It was too late. We got ourselves in a pretty good hole there. We came back, but it was just too much.”
Despite the attention she received inside, Vonleh repeatedly caught high entry passes and finished at the rim.
“I went into the game knowing I was going to have either two or three people on me, but I don’t think they executed their defense regarding that,” Vonleh said. “It opened it up for me to be able to get shots.”
Vonleh is having an outstanding season, averaging 18.4 points and 7.0 rebounds.
“She is so amazing, and she is finally starting to believe that she’s amazing,” Cates said.
Naylor said of Vonleh: “She’s tough. She’s got soft hands, she finishes. It felt like she was a part of every point, almost. When she didn’t score, there were driving lanes open because of her.”
West Linn, which had 22 turnovers in its home loss to Tigard, committed only seven turnovers Wednesday. It helped that the Lions had sophomore point guard Cami Fulcher, who missed the first meeting with a sprained ankle.
“Her leadership, she’s so invaluable to us in many, many ways,” Cates said.
The UC Davis-bound Gray scored 15 points and Brown added 12 points for Tigard, making three three-pointers. The Tigers shot 8 for 27 from three-point range.