The sun’s out, so why not step inside and start some winter sports? At least that’s the case for Tualatin this year.
After 14 months, a veteran Tualatin girls’ basketball team steps onto the court to show that nothing has changed.
This team, unlike many of the spring sports selections playing concurrently, has a host of returning athletes including five key seniors. And although life may ever so slowly be drifting back into normalcy, the basketball season was not even confirmed to play until just over a month ago on April 23.
“For a long time, it was really questionable whether or not we’d get a senior year here to play,” senior post Natalie Lathrop said. “So, it’s an awesome feeling being back on the court and with the five seniors who’ve been playing together for so long.”
“We fought hard for this season,” head coach Wes Pappas added. “It would’ve been a tragedy not to have a season. We owe it to these kids to give them the same opportunity as kids in other states.”
So, these athletes would take nothing for granted with each opponent that stepped up.
“Our motto is: if there’s any game whatsoever, I don’t care what the situation is, we’re going a hundred percent. That’s how we look at this,” Pappas said.
The Wolves took their season-opener with a 19-point margin victory at Canby and followed that win the next day on May 20 against the Oregon City Pioneers.
With the start of the shot clock, and the nominal tip-off curiously absent, their second game had begun.
Tualatin’s six-foot-three post Lathrop dominated the first quarter, taking five short two-point shots from just underneath the basket and sinking four in the first four-and-a-half minutes, the score 8-2.
However, a lack of practices and time off because of the COVID-19 pandemic has left the team in a rut offensively. Missed passes, turnovers and unintentional out-of-bounds plays were in excess.
“We have good shooters and some nights just aren’t shooting nights, tonight wasn’t one of them for us,” Lathrop said.
At the 7:10 mark in the second quarter, the Pioneers tied it up 12-12 with a two-point shot and a steal into a three-pointer in quick succession prompting a Tualatin timeout. What came out was a shift in strategy making what they could out of their offense and keeping Oregon City off the arc, the Pioneers’ strong suit.
“Our defense really held them from shooting threes – perimeter defense,” Lathrop said. “And I think without that aspect, they were hurting.”
Tualatin kept the Pioneers from scoring for the remainder of the half all the while senior Sidney Dering took charge. Starting with a short two-point score, she was fouled twice and went three for four from the free-throw line giving Tualatin a 21-12 lead.
Then, things really started to pick up speed. Following a Tualatin timeout, Lathrop doubled up on under-the-hoop baskets. Directly following and prompted by a rebound, sophomore Tabi Searle found her opening. With the court unmanned, Searle dashed in for a trouble-free layup. Not 10 seconds later, and off a steal, senior Aurora Davis did the same, bringing the score to 35-17.
This lead would only widen until senior Kasidy Javernick sunk a three to provide the 49-26 final score.
“We’ve held both teams we’ve played in the 20s and we like that, that’s where we want to be,” Pappas said. “Natalie had a great night tonight in terms of perfecting shots around the hope.”
Lathrop was the high scorer of the night with 21 points. She shot nine of 14 from the field and went three for five at the free-throw line. Dering had nine points while going three for five on the charity line, with Javernick and Davis each scoring a three-pointer apiece.
“The senior class, I got to give it to them,” Pappas said. “Natalie Lathrop, Sidney Dering, Aurora Davis, Kasidy Javernick and Teagan Gaviola; they just never stop. They’ll stay in the gym all night if I don’t kick them out.”
As a team, the Wolves scored 18 of 42 shot attempts from the field but shined at the line where they shot 11 of 16, ultimately taking Tualatin to a 2-0 Three Rivers League record.
Last year, the Wolves pushed as far as the second round of playoffs, and even with playoffs and championships forgone in the 2021 season, this team has much to look forward to.
“We don’t have nearly as many practices so it’s sometimes going to be ugly out there,” Pappas said. “But our girls are bought in and they are going to work hard and we’re going to come at (our opponent) every single night, we’re not going to beat ourselves.”