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Fast start propels Pioneers

The Sandy girls basketball team raced out to a 15-0 lead en route to a 49-41 win over Liberty.


by: THE OUTLOOK: PARKER LEE - Sandys Molly Nutt dives to the court to tie up a loose ball during the teams 49-41 home win over Liberty. The Sandy girls' basketball team was up-and-down and far from perfect against Liberty on Thursday, but the start the Pioneers’ showcased was perfect, and that turned out to be enough. Sandy raced out to a 15-0 lead to open the game and protected that advantage throughout the night on its way to a 49-41 victory.

The Pioneers could not have scripted a better opening four minutes offensively or defensively. After Dalen Richardson won the opening tipoff for Sandy, Kaylee Barnett arched in a 3-pointer that hit nothing but the bottom of the net. The Pioneers then stole the ball before Liberty crossed center court and Molly Nutt finished with a fast-break layup. Nutt again led a fast break on Sandy’s next possession and turned it into a three-point play.

Leah Barnett made it an 11-point spread with a 3-pointer from the corner and Dalen Richardson and Raquel Pellecer made back-to-back layups to push it to 15-0.

“We knew high pressure was their bread-and-butter was on defense so we put in a new offense to exploit it,” Sandy coach Ryan Alexander said. “That gave us the shots we wanted. More importantly, we were able to make those shots, and that was big for us.”

Following the initial four-minute surge, Liberty gave Sandy all it could handle. More accurately, Liberty’s McKenzie Oster gave Sandy all it could handle. Oster was lethal from beyond the arc for the remainder of the first half, nailing three 3-pointers before the end of the first period and another in the second.

Behind Oster’s deadly shooting, the Falcons slowly chipped away at Sandy’s lead. She hit another trey in the third quarter and one more early in the fourth period to bring Liberty to within six points of the Pioneers.

As good as Oster was, she could not get Liberty any closer as she lacked scoring assistance from her teammates.

“I told her after the game that I think she is the best shooter in the league, and I honestly believe that,” Alexander said. “We wanted to take away their two strong posts and two penetrating guards, and we did that. We knew we were going to give it up to her a little bit, we just didn’t expect her to make as many as she did.”

Oster was able to make such an impact in large part due because of Sandy’s offense which sputtered after the pristine start, particularly in the second half. The Pioneers converted just one field goal in the second half, none in the final period.

Sandy made up for its late shooting struggles with clutch precision at the free-throw line. Pellecer drew a foul with nine seconds remaining in the third and knocked down both foul shots. In fourth quarter, Pellecer and Nutt combined to go 11-for-12 from the line which accounted for all of Sandy’s points in the period.

“We had the right people at the free-throw line,” Alexander said. “Raquel is a 75-percent free-throw shooter, and Molly was phenomenal in all aspects of the game tonight.”

Pellecer and Nutt’s accuracy at the charity stripe never gave Oster and the Falcons a chance to overtake Sandy. When Oster made a 30-footer at the buzzer, it merely made Sandy’s margin of victory eight points instead of 11.

Pellecer was 9-of-10 from the free-throw line and finished with a team-high 17 points. Nutt scored 11 points and set up several key Sandy buckets with pinpoint passes from her position at the point. Leah Barnett connected on three 3-pointers to finish with nine points and Richardson rounded up eight.

Oster ended the night with 21 points thanks to her seven 3-pointers. She was responsible for more than half of Liberty’s scoring as no other Falcon recorded more than five points.

Sandy improved to 6-6 in Northwest Oregon Conference play with the win while Liberty fell to 6-6 in defeat. The result moved the two schools moved into a three-way tie with Wilsonville for fourth place in the conference.

View a photo gallery from the game at parkerlee.exposuremanager.com