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Poised Chiefs tip Irish in opener

PORTLAND -- Crunch time turned into clutch time for the Rogue River girls basketball team on Thursday afternoon.

Making their first appearance in a Class 3A state basketball tournament since 1977, the third-ranked Chieftains kept their composure with the game on the line in a 49-42 opening-round win over No. 4 Waldport at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus.

We just have the strength when it gets close that we all come together, said senior guard Charity Hannan, who scored a key basket in a fourth-quarter run that helped Rogue River pull away.

The victory advances the Chieftains (22-2) into a quarterfinal matchup against Sutherlin (21-6) today at 7 p.m.

Rogue River overcame a shaky start to win its 11th straight game. The Chieftains trailed 8-2 in the first quarter before settling down and rallying for a 29-24 halftime lead. A slow third quarter for both teams on the offensive end left Rogue River leading 32-31.

The lead was still one point -- 34-33 -- when Hannan's basket on a driving layup with 5:25 to play sparked the Chieftains' final surge.

We got out and hit some big baskets when we needed them, Rogue River coach Dan Mortinson said. Plus, they didn't hit many shots.

Shae Wright followed Hannan's key basket with a hoop of her own off a rebound. Then Wright -- who combined with teammate Sarah Jones to control the lane all game -- fed Mindi Yost for a layup, pumping the lead to 40-33 with three minutes to play. Rogue River closed out the win by 9 of 15 free throws down the stretch.

You have to give them credit, Waldport coach Mychal Williams said. They hit the shots they had to hit.

With five starters who all played in various state tournaments during the fall season, Rogue River remained calm in the wake of its slow start. Five early turnovers led to a couple of easy baskets for the Lady Irish, who finished eighth in last year's tournament.

A pair of baskets by Jones and Hannan settled things down, helping Rogue River take a 15-14 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Chieftains never trailed again.

We haven't pushed the panic button all year, Mortinson said. It was a lot like a game against Phoenix where we were down 8-0 right away. Sometimes we have to get settled down. Fortunately, we have the strength on this team to deal with that.

Jones and Yost had 14 points each to lead Rogue River. Michelle Theuson had 16 for Waldport before fouling out.

While Rogue River heated up offensively as the game progressed, Waldport never found its touch. The Lady Irish hit only 10 of 28 first-half attempts from the field, compared to 14 of 27 for Rogue River, and missed numerous point-blank shots at the basket after beating the Chieftains on the boards. Waldport got downright icy from the field in the final two quarters, hitting only 6 of 31 shots.

Shooting was just part of the problem for Waldport, which came to the tournament as the second seed form the Valco League after winning the regular-season title but losing to Philomath in the seeding game.

I guess it just carried over, said Williams, whose team finished the season 20-5. We weren't crisp; we weren't sharp. After we lost that early lead we didn't have the look in our eyes that I'm used to seeing.

On the other bench, Mortinson sensed that his team was hungry, especially during the pivotal fourth-quarter surge. Jones and Wright -- who had 14 rebounds each as Rogue River enjoyed a 47-36 edge on the boards -- shut down the lane while Yost and point guard Michelle Anderson dictated the game's tempo from the perimeter. And Hannan, who shares time on the wing with senior Cory Orton but also stepped in at point guard when Anderson picked up her fourth foul late in the third quarter, made big contributions -- sending the Chieftains into the championship round of the 16-team tournament.

We really feel like we match up well against Sutherlin, Mortinson said.

WALDPORT (42) -- Phueson 16, Peterson 7, Morrow 4, Wilson 6, Clow 2, Norton 0, Wiebe 0, Thueson 0, Stewart 7. Totals: 18 8-15 42.

ROGUE RIVER (49) -- Yost 14, Jones 14, Anderson 3, Orton 2, Wright 8, Marland 0, Hannan 8. Totals: 19 11-23 49.

Waldport13 11 7 11 -- 42

Rogue River15 14 — 17 -- 49

3-point goals -- Waldport 2 (Thueson 1, Stuart 1).