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Skyhawks Put Slow Start Behind Them, Outlast Cavaliers 57-42 in State Quarterfinals

Kyle Pinnell

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Taken by CeCe Meddock on 3/7/18

The Southridge Skyhawks have everything to lose. They are the top-ranked team trying to defend their title. They are the ones with targets on their backs, the measuring stick of other teams.

The Skyhawks got off to a slow start, falling behind by double-digits early, but used a strong second-half showing to propel themselves to a 57-42 victory in the quarterfinals of the 6A state playoffs Wednesday afternoon at the Chiles Center.

Sophomore Kaylen Blair led the Skyhawks off the bench with 16 points on just seven field-goal attempts, with 13 of those points coming in the second half.

“I just stayed aggressive, I kept shooting, especially because I was hitting my shots,” Blair said.

This was not the first time the Skyhawks have taken on the Cavaliers this season. Southridge gave Clackamas their first defeat of the season at the Nike Interstate Shootout during winter break.

The Hawks defeated the then third-ranked Cavaliers 59-26 in the semifinals of the competition. On Wednesday afternoon, the Cavs had a chance at redemption.

The Cavaliers were ready to go right from the jump, holding the Skyhawks to just one made field goal in the entire first quarter. With every Clackamas bucket and stop, the Cavaliers bench and fans got louder and louder. After Southridge guard McKelle Meek hit a pair of free throws a few minutes into the quarter, the Hawks did not score again until just over five minutes remaining in the second.

To make matters worse for the Hawks, at the end of the first quarter Clackamas guard, Bri Phiakahmngon, banked in a deep three at the buzzer to give the Cavaliers their biggest lead of the game at 15-5.

“We were pretty nervous,” Blair said. “ I was kinda scared, but I knew, in the end, we would pull together as a team and eventually get the win.”

The Cavaliers held co-metro player of the year, Cameron Brink, in-check for most of the night, only allowing her seven points on 3-13 shooting. While Brink had a game-high 14 rebounds and three blocks, she could never get it going on the offensive end.

However, the player who Clackamas keyed in on was guard Maggie Freeman. The Cavaliers ran a box-and-one to take Freeman out of the game, and for the most part, it worked as she finished with just 7 points that came only from the charity stripe.

“I don’t think it was nerves as much as it was that they tried something different and it worked well,” Southridge head coach Michael Bergmann said. “We had to adjust to it, and the girls didn’t necessarily adjust right away; they weren’t taking good shots.”

Once the Skyhawks broke the seal of the basket in the second quarter, shots finally started to fall. The Skyhawks held the Cavaliers scoreless for the final 3:02 of the half and used a 10-0 run of their own to tie the score at 17 heading into halftime. Despite the run, the Skyhawks finished the first half shooting 21.7 percent on 5-23 shooting.

At halftime, Bergmann told the team just to go out, keep up the intensity, and win the remaining two quarters.

“I just told them ‘Hey, you just won that quarter. You won the second one, that’s all we need. Just keep doing the same thing in the next quarter, and we’ll be up, and the game’s over.’ They did a good job of that. I thought they listened to it and fought hard,” Bergmann said.

The Hawks came out with a renewed sense of urgency in the second half as they started to put the game away. Southridge took a 23-21 lead, their first since the opening quarter, and seized control of the game; outscoring Clackamas 40-25 in the half.

“We had [energy] the whole time,” Freeman said. “They had it as well, but we play this way, and I don’t think they’re used to playing with that much energy. They wore out as the second half went on.”

With the win, the Southridge girls will play again at 1:30 in the afternoon in the semifinals against West Linn, who are coming off of a 42-32 victory over North Medford. The Hawks will have their hands full with West Linn’s 6’3” post, Aaronette Vonleh, who is the sister of ex-Portland Trail Blazer Noah Vonleh.

The boys will be the next Southridge team to play. They take on Lincoln in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 6:30 p.m at the Chiles Center.

“We’re getting closer, and we’re going to play the best teams in the state right now,” Freeman said. “We have to expect that we’re not going to always have the same outcome and that we’re going to have to play a little harder and do things differently.”

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Skyhawks Put Slow Start Behind Them, Outlast Cavaliers 57-42 in State Quarterfinals