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Boys' basketball: Lions lacking toughness, lose 11th in a row

Lions fall for the 11th consecutive time, losing 50-37 at the hands of league-leading Wilsonville


by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Lion senior Tanner Long drives against Wilsonville, attempting to break down the stingy Wildcat defense. Long had eight points in last Friday's loss, and says the team needs to get tougher in order to win once again.The first pair of games for the Lion boys' basketball team were fantastic. After that, not so much.

“Those first two wins, we were really confident. We had fans in the stands and we were playing really well,” said Tanner Long, the team's experienced senior guard. “Then we started losing, fans started leaving and we're kind of just come out and we're like “whatever.” We've started to bicker with each other sometimes, and in practice we're just flat, so we come out flat and that's what happens.”

It's not much of a secret: at the moment, the Lions aren't a great basketball team. They've lost their last 11 games, and have dropped all four league match ups to this point, including Friday's 50-37 loss to Wilsonville. They'll travel to Putnam on Tuesday to face the 1-12 Kingsmen, adding a faint glimmer of hope on the horizon, but the issues for the Lions run deeper than something that can be fixed with a single victory.

“We've kind of just changed since those first two wins. Ever since our first loss, we've kind of just gone down hill and formed those same (bad) practice habits and game habits,” said Long. “(We) lose control in the third and fourth quarters, come out flat. We're just used to it now, and we need to find something that will get us over that hump.”

Head coach Jerry Allen, who has said at times that the team will need him to go back to teaching fundamentals in order to turn things around, says he doesn't have a solution for the problem currently ailing the team. The issue is that toughness isn't something that can be taught, it has to be engrained.

“I didn't realize how much tougher the seniors were last year than these seniors are,” said Allen. “Nathan Hunter, and (Cody) Beasley and (Quentin) Galvin's older brother Cody, just in terms of toughness, we miss them. They didn't shoot the ball, but defensively they would play hard.”

This year's team, by comparison, is entirely different. Though they've started to fix some of the mistakes in regards to ball security, their defensive toughness has been an Achilles heel.

“Defensively, we won't take a charge,” said Allen. “Nobody's tough enough to step in there and take it so we can get the stops we need. We're jumping around and slapping at the ball. We're very undisciplined defensively.”

Against Wilsonville, the sometimes porous defense struggled to stop the Wildcats from penetrating, often jumping to block a shot, but committing a foul in the act and putting the road team at the line. St. Helens got into the passing lanes in the third quarter and put a run together, but four points is as close as the Lions could claw. Wilsonville put together a run of their own, and led by 11 once again heading to the fourth quarter.

By that point, time was starting to run short. The Wildcats got to the line and were able to hold off the Lions as any semblance of a game plan began to tumble out the window. None of the basics of handling a team like Wilsonville, who likes to press, were evident.

“We were trying to hit the high post during practice, but when it comes game time we kinda just got scared. We'd force passes and not hit the high post,” said Long, who offered several keys the Lions missed out on. “I'd say patience, slowing down (and) counting to four like coach (Allen) tells us, waiting for somebody to come up, cutting, passing. We did a lot of standing tonight.”

Patience and toughness, along with the confidence Long hopes their first win in nearly 50 days will bring them, could be the key to picking up some success in as the second half of the league season looms. Getting there, though, won't be a simple task. Toughness is something that has to be gleaned and caught from the environment, and it's a decision each player has to make on their own.

“You just take it upon yourself,” said Long. “It's each individual knowing “I've got to do this for my team,” and maybe some of the toughness rubs off (on your teammates). That's what coach Allen is trying to get at, but so far it hasn't happened.”

Long said he hopes the change will happen soon, but the downward spiral so far doesn't make the future look all that great. The first victory might be the spark they need to switch up practice and game habits, but for now, it's only a hope.

Allen, obviously frustrated with the way the season has gone thus far, agreed.

“We'll see,” he said.

SUMMARY

Wilsonville 50, St. Helens 37

WILS 11 9 13 17

STHE 2 8 14 13

Wilsonville 50: Bullock 15, Ogles, Malvar 6, Heiv 12, Christensen, Fennell, McLellan, Steiger, Martin 3, Reichele 12, Walter, McNulty 2

St. Helens 37: Long 8, Spencer 2, Poorman 3, Jewett 2, Helgerson 4, Bumgardner 6, Enyart 2, Galvin, Alcazar, Teyema 2, Ruege, West 8