Tyschal Blake’s 26 points led No. 6 St. Mary’s Academy (16-5, 12-1) to a gutsy 65-59 win over No. 10 West Linn (13-8, 11-3) on Friday night to take complete control of the Three Rivers League.
“Tyschal has been this way all year,” St. Mary’s head coach Dewey Taylor III said. “Sometimes, I hate to say it, I’ve read the paper and I get a little chip on my shoulder because it’s like why aren’t they talking about her for Player of the Year?”
Blake certainly made her case Friday night against the Blues’ toughest competition. The 6-foot-1 post, who had 19 points in the first matchup against the Lions, was the difference for St. Mary’s, who were without starting guard Bendu Yeaney for the fifth straight game.
Blake established an inside presence in the first quarter to put St. Mary’s ahead, and dominated the boards while finishing key buckets to keep her team in front.
“My mindset is the same every night,” Blake said. “Play hard, push my teammates and they push me too.”
The senior scored 11 points in the first quarter to put St. Mary’s out in front 17-12. Blake didn’t score any points in the second quarter but the Blues were able to maintain a 26-21 lead going into halftime. West Linn’s top player, Taylor Enders, sat on the bench for most of the quarter due to foul trouble. The senior guard led the Lions with 14 points, eight coming in the final quarter.
Blake scored the first basket of the second half, but soon picked up her third foul with 6:17 left in the third quarter. Taylor rolled the dice and kept his post in the game. The gamble paid off. The Weber State-bound forward scored seven of the Blues’ next nine points during a critical stretch.
West Linn trimmed the deficit to 30-29 with 3:45 left in the third quarter after a Lexi Pritchard fast-break layup.
With her team on the brink, Blake converted a three-point play to give St. Mary’s some breathing room. The Blues then forced a turnover and Blake cashed with another layup to extend the lead out to 35-29. Blake’s buckets keyed a 9-0 St. Mary’s run that gave the Blues a ten-point lead with 2:20 left in the third quarter.
“She should be a difference-maker every game we play because it’s such a hard matchup,” Taylor said. “She makes it able for Bendu, Tasia, Martina, Syd and Clara Ell do what they do because you have to focus on her.”
With all of the focus on Blake, St. Mary’s guards Tasia Billbrew and Martina McCowan put together a strong second half. The duo combined for 18 points after scoring just seven in the first half.
When the Lions were able to trim the Blues’ lead to 49-46 with 3:43 left in the game, it was Billbrew and McCowan who scored four consecutive points to push the lead back out to seven. McCowan finished with 14 points and Billbrew added 11. St. Mary’s also received six points from starting guard Clara Ell, who returned after a five-game absence.
The Blues also shot 13 of 17 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, including 9 of their final 10, to put the game away. The win was the Blues’ fourth consecutive and put them two games up in the loss column over the Lions for the Three Rivers League title.
“We have one goal in mind,” Blake said. “That’s to win state.”
The Blues still have some work to do finish off their Three Rivers League crown. They’ll go on the road to take on Lake Oswego Tuesday night.
Kennedy Fulcher and Sidney Kolasinski added 13 and 11 points for West Linn. The Lions will look to close league play strong when they go to Sherwood to take on the Bowmen Friday night.