After being on the wrong end of a blowout many, many times this season, the St. Helens Lions finally had something to celebrate Tuesday night.
The Hood River Valley boys basketball had just another blowout loss to ponder as its season came to an end.
The Lions fell behind early, shot their way back into the game and then ran the Eagles out of the gym in the second half for a 66-42 win in the Round of 36 Regional Play-in games.
"At this point, we just wanted to salvage something positive," St. Helens coach Todd Smith said.
The Eagles started the game off on a promising note, building a 10-3 lead in the opening moments on a pair of Cody Walker three-pointers.
The Lions then began to exert full-court pressure and the Eagles fell apart.
The Lions lineup was composed almost entirely of sophomores, with three seniors, one junior and not one returning varsity player from the previous season.
"Never in my career have I had a team that did not play a minute (at varsity) last year," Smith said.
It didn't matter how inexperienced they were when they began pressing - the Eagles had no answer.
HRV coach Zach Pauls estimated the Eagles had 42 turnovers - before he lost track.
The two teams entered the game with three wins between them, and the Lions also committed their share of turnovers. However, they were able to keep the Eagles from getting any momentum going on the offensive end.
By the end of the first quarter, the Lions led by one point. They pushed the advantage to nine at the half, 15 by the end of the third and were emptying their bench by the middle of the fourth quarter.
The Eagles had the advantage in size inside with Chris Dirks and Nick Guthrie, but could not find a way to get the ball to their big men most of the night.
"Their guards were real scrappy and physical," Pauls said. "Then we were half a step behind in passes and receiving."
Dirks was the only HRV player in double figures with 10 points, while Dalton Frazier had eight, Ryan Wheat seven. Guthrie and Walker finished with six each.
Senior wing Zach Underwood was a constant threat for St. Helens throughout the game and led all scorers with 12 points.
Cody Galvin had 11 points for St. Helens while Cody Beisley added 10.
Smith said he hopes the confidence from the win and a chance to see one of the best teams in the state in Benson, who the Lions were scheduled to play Friday in the Round of 32, would generate positive momentum for his team.
"With what we've got in place we'll still be young next year but the year after that we should be even better," he said.
Pauls was left to pick up the pieces after a 2-22 season and 0-12 league season, during which the Eagles lost by less than 10 points only once.
"Now we go play baseball or track and start the summer trying to get a core group to play together over the summer," he said. "We need to get more kids to play summer basketball."