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The ball just didn’t go in the hole. It’ll happen in the game of basketball from time to time.

Such was the case for the Kelso girls basketball team on Thursday night, which led 8-6 after the first quarter, but ultimately fell 44-29 to the defending 3A state champion Prairie Falcons in a 3A Greater St. Helens League girls basketball game in Kelso.

“We just couldn’t hit a shot,” Alexis Kelven said. “We were a little bit timid tonight.”

Kleven was the most consistent option offensively, hitting a couple of 3s, one of which opened the second half, cutting Prairie’s lead to 16-14, and finished with 13 points.

It was the closest Kelso (6-4, 0-1) would be for the remainder, though.

Natalie Fraley, who finished with 9 points and was all over glass, started the third quarter at the high post in the second half against the Falcon zone, and was efficient and clever, finding open shooters like Cooper Joy or Evermore Kaiser, but nothing fell.

It was a similar situation in the first half.

Kelso scraped to that 8-6 lead, not letting the guard-oriented Falcons run or find open shots from the perimeter.

But Kelso lost track of the small, pesky Falcons guards after halftime.

Mary Dunford led Prairie with 10 points, hitting a first-half 3 and hit a layup through a foul on Prairie’s first fourth-quarter possession to put the Falcons up 30-23.

Dayna Vera, who had 9 points after not scoring in the first half, got open for a couple of 3s. One came early in the third quarter and gave the Falcons a five-point cushion at 21-16. She hit another early in the fourth which gave Prairie a ten-point lead 33-23 with 6:54 to play.

“We take pride in our defense,” Kleven said. “It was the only thing we had going.”

Allie Corral, who finished with 8 points, hit a couple 3s after halftime as Prairie slowly pulled away.

The offensive struggles weren’t the foundations of the frustration. It was the defense.

The four Prairie (4-6, 1-0) second-half 3s were all back-breakers in their own way. They’d come after turnovers or after missed gimmes, creating five-point swings that take the wind from the sails of an already frustrated team.

But it wasn’t a wasted night.

Even as Prairie tries to rebuild after losing so much, it’s still an eminently well-coached team, one that plays with confidence and knows how to be successful and win.

Kelso was step-for-step with the Falcons for three quarters, trailing by five heading to the final period, where the Falcons ultimately pulled away.

It’s a piece of motivation for Kelso after its first league game. And when the Lassies head to the Falcons’ place later this month, you can bet Kelso will be ready to steal one there.

““We were just a little bit scared tonight,” Kleven said. “But we’ll come back and get the next one,” Kleven said.

Prairie 44, Kelso 29

Prairie;6;10;12;14;—;49

Kelso;8;3;10;8;—;29

PRAIRIE — Mary Dunford 10, Dayna Vera 9, Allie Corral 8, Claire Heischmidt 6, Kylie Diaz 6, Kaitlyn Coughey.

KELSO — Alexis Kleven 13, Natalie Fraley 9, KK Perez 4, Cooper Joy 2, Evermore Kaiser 1, Mati Ohlson.

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