Saints win! Saints win!
The Mt Hood women’s basketball team is back to winning ways after a home victory Wednesday over the Chemeketa Storm, 87-74. The win helps the team’s fight for the NWAC playoffs, a rare opportunity in recent years.
The lady Saints came into the night having lost their last two games, to the top two teams in the NWAC South Division: Umpqua, ranked No. 1 in the league and undefeated on the year, at 22-0, and second-place Clackamas.
Before taking on the Storm, Saints head coach Jeremy Vandenboer said, “Tonight’s a big game. We beat them at their place, but it was a close one, so we’ll have to come out tonight and battle.”
That the Saints did. What seemed to be a challenging game ended up being taken care of early in the first half, with the whole Mt. Hood team contributing, led by several first-year players.
Saints freshman center Rachel Watson took care of the offensive and defensive rebounds (with 12 total), and scored 14 points. Freshman forward Courtney Jackson led the Saints in scoring with 20, and had 10 rebounds. Freshman guard Tatyana Lyles scored 15 and grabbed 9 rebounds, while freshman point guard McKenzie Long had 10 points and 8 assists.
Mt. Hood led 45-34 at the half and never looked back, pushing its lead to 17 at one point.
Team leaders Long and Watson said beating the Storm was critical.
“A must-win for going to playoffs,” said Long. “We feel really good! We needed the win because they’re right below us in league, so this win put us a little bit further above them.
Watson was happy with her performance Wednesday night. The 6-foot-1-inch center took full advantage of her height advantage, controlling the game in the middle.
“They were shorter so it was easier to box them out,” Watson said of the Storm. “I feel pumped because we really needed to win and it’s always good to win on your home court.”
The win over Chemeketa lifted Mt. Hood’s season record to 8-12 overall, and 5-5 in the South, good for fourth place in the division.
With six more games to play in the next three weeks – five of them against South rivals with worse records – the Saints can clinch a playoff spot if they finish in fourth (or better), something they haven’t done for eight years.
The last time the Saints went to the playoffs was in the 2009-10 season where they went 10-4 in the South, and 19-10 overall. They haven’t come anywhere near close since, including winning only one South Division game in 38 tries from 2012-2014.
In his first year as head coach, Vandenboer is happy for where the program is going and seems calm, looking forward.
“I think that’s the great thing about athletics, that it just represents life with so many opportunities and teachable moments,” he said. “It’s not so much if you fail or get knocked down, because everybody fails and gets knocked down: We don’t do as well as we want to on a test, we didn’t get the promotion we wanted or a job.
“It’s about ‘Do you keep getting back up, and never quit?’ That’s what I tell my girls,” he said.