Clatskanie’s girls’ basketball team isn’t surprising anyone anymore.
At 13-1 with more than their fair share of lopsided victories, the Tigers are looking every bit like a challenger for the Lewis and Clark League title.
Using a pinball offense that moves the ball between its talented freshmen and savvy upperclassmen, paired with a press defense that gives opposing guards nightmares, Clatskanie again showed why it’s suddenly one of the region’s top teams in a 66-45 win over De La Salle North Catholic on Tuesday at Clatskanie High.
It moves the Tigers to 7-0 in league play, setting up a highly anticipated matchup with defending district champion Rainier on Friday.
Freshman Shelby Blodgett finished with 34 points, 16 rebounds and seven steals. Her fellow freshman, Olivia Sprague tallied 18 points and four assists. It’s become a typical statline for the duo.
“We just love basketball,” Blodgett said. “There’s no pressure.”
Sprague was also credited with igniting an intimidating full-court press that launched Clatskanie to an 18-8 first-quarter lead.
“I wish there was a stat for what Olivia Sprague does at the top of that press,” Tigers coach Dawn Warren said. “The amount of turnovers she causes, the amount of bad passes she makes the other girls make, there’s no stat for.”
But despite the gaudy stats of Blodgett and Sprague, which have come more often than not this year, the Tigers are more than just a two-star show. Olivia Warren tallied seven assists, and Madeline Moravec finished with 10 points.
Alexis Smith proved more than competent as a ballhandler, giving Warren and Sprague respite when needed and making clear the Tigers have many options to run the offense.
“Really just trusting each other,” Sprague said of the key to the ball movement. “We’ve played with these girls since we were little, so it’s just great to be back with our team.”
And speaking of that offense. At its best, it’s a game of pinball, the Tiger players rarely letting the ball get to their chest before releasing it to the next player.
There were times it dissipated Tuesday, and De La Salle capitalized. But when it was working, it was impossible to stop. Especially when Blodgett and her adept scoring touch was in the middle of it.
“This group has played together since they were really young,” Warren said. “They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and really like each other. They know who their strong players are, and they get the ball to them.”
But there’s still one more thing left for the Tigers to prove. The biggest challenge of the season comes Friday in Rainier. Clatskanie has league title aspirations, but those dreams run through rival Rainier.
“The girls need to just realize it’s another game,” Warren said. “We know Rainier is going to be tough. It’s a rivalry, and Doug (Knox) is a great coach. I think it’s going to be a great game; the gym is going to be packed; the rafters are going to be ringing.”