The Neah-Kah-Nie High Pirates girls basketball team opened the 2018-2019 Northwest League schedule by facing the No. 9 ranked Portland Christian Royals, who are perhaps one of their strongest league opponents.
by Mike Weber
For the Headlight-Herald
The Royals (1-0 NWL, 4-2 overall) certainly demonstrated that they deserve a top-10 Class 2A ranking as they won by 55-19 over the Pirates (0-1 NWL, 1-3 overall) on Monday at Portland Christian High School.
Portland Christian, which was in the Class 3A level last year, proved that it is still on a higher level than Neah-Kah-Nie, even in the 2A classification.
The Pirates, guided by coach Corey Duoma, led briefly in the first quarter at 2-1 when senior Brianna Woodward (eight pts.) sank a jumper from the free throw line. Woodward sank another jumper as the Pirates trailed just 6-4 early in the quarter. PC then scored four straight to build a a 10-4 advantage after one quarter.
“They (Royals) just came down from the Class 3A level, so they’re a good team and we’re still trying to find a rhythm offensively and defensively,” said Duoma. “We’re still trying to figure out who is going to be effective scorers and our team leaders. We played a little scared tonight and we need to learn to relax and not play nervous like we did. We’re just trying to find ourselves and we’ll keep working on that and then we’ll get better. I was disappointed because I thought we would play better defense than we did. We got down on ourselves, we didn’t handle their defensive pressure and we gave up some easy baskets. We have a great group of young ladies that are a lot of fun to work with and they’ll keep working hard by taking one step at a time to improve and that’s what we’ll do.”
The Pirates came out and played tough at the outset of the second quarter. Senior Alicia Cruz Lilly (six pts.) came up with a steal and then scored on a breakaway layup as the Pirates trailed just 12-6.
“We knew that they (PC) had some good shooters and we had a solid game plan at the beginning, but we just didn’t play up to our ability tonight,” said Lilly. “I feel like we all should’ve played a little better and when we regain our confidence level, then we’ll be able to do that. We missed lots of shots and I think that I should’ve shot a lot better and I know that I’m capable of doing that. I think that since this was our first league game, maybe we were a little nervous. When we start working together better and improving on offense to where we’re playing the best we can, then I think we’ll definitely start winning some games and have some success.”
The Royals then took control with an 8-0 run to go up 20-6. Cruz Lilly, one of seven seniors on an experienced Pirates squad, sank two free throws to trim the margin to 20-8. The Royals momentum continued though and they built a 26-11 halftime lead.
The Royals then capitalized on a high number of turnovers that the Pirates committed and scored some quick and easy baskets while building a 41-17 margin after three quarters. The Pirates couldn’t get into any kind of offensive rhythm at all and struggled offensively in the fourth, when they were outscored 14-2.
“We were hoping to have a little better performance and we even had a practice on Sunday to try and help us get well prepared for this game,” said senior Avery Smith. “Things didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but I think after we play a couple more games and work on improving some things in practice, then I think we’ll do a little better. We’ve been focusing on trying to eliminate our turnovers and just try to play more calm on offense.”
Neah-Kah-Nie will try to bounce back from the loss and hopefully get a win when it faces the City Christian Lions (0-1 NWL, 1-4 overall) Wednesday at home at 6 p.m., followed by another home game Friday at 6 p.m. versus the Vernonia Loggers (1-0 NWL, 2-3 overall).
Portland Christian 55, Neah-Kah-Nie 19
Portland Christian 10 16 15 14 – 55
Neah-Kah-Nie 4 7 6 2 – 19