Defense steps up as Eagle girls drop Putnam, Woodburn

December 20, 2011

It was not quite pretty in pink, but the HRV girls will take the win over Woodburn Monday night.

Playing in bright pink uniforms to raise awareness for breast cancer, the Eagles used a surge just after halftime, and some clutch free-throw shooting in the final minute to hold off the Bulldogs 36-33 in the opener of a four-team tournament.

"A win is a win," said HRV coach Tom Ames. "But sometimes it's better to win ugly then lose pretty."

Not that they won in entirely ugly fashion.

The Eagles wore bright pink uniforms with "Pink Ribbon" emblazoned on the front. The uniforms travel around the state through a Eugene-based sales representative for Armor Zone and are used to raise awareness for breast cancer screenings.

The uniforms were worn by Crow High School before the Eagles received them, and after wearing them in their second tournament game Tuesday night, the Eagles planned to send them on to the next school.

The Eagles trailed by four at halftime but used an 11-4 run sparked by a pair of Natalia Ames three-pointers to open the second half.

They held the lead until 5:50 to play, when Celine Gregoire scored on a lay-up for two of her 17 points to give the Bulldogs a 30-29 lead. She scored again seconds later to extend the Bulldog lead to three amidst a series of HRV turnovers and poor shots.

Gregoire was the only player on either team to score in double digits with 14 of her points coming in the second and fourth quarters. The Eagles were led by eight points each from Megan Winans and Natalia Ames.

However, the Eagles found one more surge to get the win. After a Logan Bailey layup tied the game at 33-33 with two minutes to play, it was the Bulldogs' turn to pick bad shots, firing up three air balls in the closing minutes.

The Eagles came up with the ball each time, and at the other end of the floor Ames drove to the hoop twice, both times drawing fouls, and hit three of the four free throws to give the Eagles a three-point lead with :12 seconds left.

After a Kayla Reyna three-pointer fell short at the buzzer, the Eagles were able to celebrate in a bright pink cluster in front of their bench.

On Friday, an impressive defensive effort combined with a career-best performance by Natalia Ames helped propel the Eagles to victory over Rex Putnam.

Ames poured in a career-high 17 points and all five Eagle starters scored in a 42-29 win over the Kingsmen.

The Eagles defense, ranked third out of 37 Class 5A squads, allows an average of just 34.2 points a game. HRV's stifling backcourt press enabled them to force numerous Kingsmen turnovers, which they capitalized on by getting lay-ins and short jumpers early in the contest to take control as coach Tom Ames' squad led from start to finish.

"We played very well offensively and defensively," said Tom Ames. "It was definitely one of the best games we've played this year. We played with a high intensity level the entire game and it was pretty good overall performance."

Natalia Ames buried a three-pointer from the top of the arc, the first of her four three's, giving the Eagles an edge to open the game.

"I've struggled with my shooting recently, but I've been working real hard in practice and focusing on keeping my elbow in the right position," said Natalia Ames. "It definitely paid off for me tonight and I felt like I had pretty good rhythm the entire game."

Putnam narrowed the margin to 16-11 after one. Both squads played tough zone defense in a low-scoring second quarter in which the teams combined for just five total points. It was a scoreless quarter until Winans sank two free throws, making it 18-11 with 5:49 on the scoreboard clock.

Putnam closed within 20-17 in the third, but the momentum then shifted in favor of the Eagles. A 13-2 scoring surge helped the Eagles take a 33-19 lead to take control, and led by as much as 19 in the fourth quarter.

"This win gives us lots of momentum and it helps close the gap between how good we are now and how good we actually can be," said Kenzie Yoshimura, "It was important that we were able to come up with another win. We did a good job of staying well focused and playing with a high intensity level the entire game."

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