No. 2 Oregon City (10-2, 2-0) is the defending 6A champions but their quest to repeat as been anything but easy so far this season.
The Pioneers have just one senior and opened the season without forward Taylor Shaw. Guard N’Dea Flye was expected to be a key contributor but is no longer listed on the team’s roster.
Junior guard Cierra Walker, one of the top players in the state, carried most of the workload in the early part of the non-conference season. The Pioneers lost to Tualatin 48-41 on December 15. Walker scored 27 of the team’s 41 points that night.
Her workload has been lightened with the return of Shaw the growing confidence of role players like Jordan Kelly and Taylor Knighton. Oregon City went on to lose their opener in the Nike Interstate Shootout to No. 9 West Linn to begin the season 5-2. Since then, the Pioneers have rattled off five consecutive wins, including a 59-43 win over No. 5 St. Mary’s and a 51-36 win over No. 6 Clackamas.
Head coach Kurt Guelsdorf says that this might not be the biggest or fastest team he’s had, but they’re fighters that have a knack for closing out games in pressure moments.
What does a league road win against a top ten team like Clackamas mean for your team?
“Anytime you can get a league win against a team that’s battling with you is a good deal. They played well. We played well. There were just stretches both teams hit where they couldn’t score. We had a couple more stretches where we got a couple buckets. I know the score looked bigger than it might have been. That wasn’t a 15-point win. That was a good, hard-fought battle by a well-coached team with a very good player. Peyton Carroll is a great player. She’s a handful inside. She deserves whatever accolades she gets.”
Taylor had a lot of success in the post against Carroll. Is that a matchup you thought you could take advantage of?
“Sometimes those 6’3″ kids are facing a little more athletic 5’9″ kids. We tried to take advantage of that a little bit in some of the schemes. Cierra Walker played big. Taylor Shaw played big. Lindsi Peters came in and made a couple big plays. We got lucky with a bank shot, and then we got a great drive from her with the and-one. It really made a huge difference. She came in and it was a four-point game. She hits the three with a little bit of luck and then a great play by the same kid. It’s a great win. They’re up there in the rankings. Our number one goal all the time is to win a league title. It’s a new league with new teams, but this was an old rival. Anytime we can beat Clackamas, it’s always a good win.”
Your team was patient in the half-court. What did you like about their execution?
“There’s times we’ve got to come down and make buckets against that set defense. Sometimes we execute well, and sometimes we get good shots but they just don’t fall. We’re getting there. It’s just like any high school team two months into the season. They’re starting their league season and trying to identify who they are. I think we’re getting there. I’m excited for the next 12 games or so. We’ll take them one at a time.”
What did you learn about your team in non-conference play?
“I think there’s times where we need to rebound a little bit better. I love our half-court defense and I love that they’re winners. I love that against adversity, we’re able to pull games out. It’s not the tallest team or the fastest team we’ve ever had. They’re winners and kids that know how to get things done in the fourth quarter.”
You held Clackamas to two points in the fourth quarter and converted at the free throw line to seal the win. That’s got to be big for your team moving forward.
“We should be good shooting at the foul line. I’ll knock on wood. You got to get rebounds and you got to take care of the ball to close out games. For the most part, we did that.”
The Pioneers will look to extend their winning streak to six games on Tuesday when they host Gresham.
Check out photos from Oregon City’s win over Clackamas!