6A GIRLS BASKETBALL: Southridge 62, Benson 45

The defending 6A champion Southridge Skyhawks proved once again they are in a class by themselves in the state of Oregon.

In a matchup of teams that could potentially square off on a Saturday in March, the Skyhawks led from start to finish in a 62-45 victory over the Benson Lady Techsters at the MLK Invitational at Lewis & Clark College’s Pamplin Sports Center Monday afternoon.

The 13-1 Skyhawks, who are unbeaten and unchallenged in Oregon this season, were not intimidated by the physical, young Techsters (9-4), rolling to an 18-6 first-quarter lead and extending that lead to 36-20 at half despite foul trouble to three starters.

The Skyhawks’ top attraction is 6-4 sophomore Cameron Brink, a player on the recruiting radar of every major Division I women’s basketball program in the country. But with Brink laid low by fouls and limited to two points, the ‘Hawks showed off their varied array of weapons.

While Brink is a rare combination of size, skill, athleticism and fiery competitiveness, 5-11 senior Maggie Freeman may be the state’s best all-around player. An early commit to Boise State, Freeman has a point guards’ court vision and anticipation, a deadly outside shot and the athletic ability to finish backdoor alley-oops near the rim. A transfer from North Medford that joined the program as a junior last year, Freeman scored 11 of her game-high 25 points in the first quarter and hit 9-of-12 from the field and 5-of-6 at the foul line with a pair of treys in three attempts. Freeman also had four steals and dished out three assists, two of those dimes setting up senior teammate Natalie Hoff in the third period, when the Hawks pushed their lead to 21 points.

Hoff and Freeman split the scoring duties in the third quarter, each scoring ten of Southridge’s 20 points as the Skyhawks took a 56-37 lead into the final period and cruised from there. Hoff, bound for Division II Seattle Pacific next year, contributed 20 points and a team-leading five rebounds, connecting on 8-fo-10 from the field, including a three-pointer.

Benson is young, but they are big and physical with a feisty reputation. Not even three minutes into the contest, a loose ball scramble between Southridge’s sophomore point guard McKelle Meek and Benson’s junior point guard Makenzy Porter got testy. With players from both teams getting involved to protect their teammates, technical fouls were assessed to Brink and Benson’s Cierra Ellington.

The Portland officiating crew called a tight game after the early fireworks and tempers were under control the rest of the way.  Brink picked up her second personal before the end of the period and sat the entire second quarter. In that period, freshman guard Maya Hoff picked up her third foul less than a minute in and Freeman was whistled for her third with 2:45 to go in the half.

Benson, which ran a tight seven-player rotation, could not capitalize on the absence of all that Southridge firepower. Maya Hoff scored underneath on Southridge’s first possession of the second quarter to put the ‘Hawks up 20-10. The Techsters were scoreless for the first 2:40 of the second period and never came within single digits the rest of the way. They did hold a big rebounding advantage, outboarding Southridge 39-24 with a whopping 17-4 advantage on the offensive glass, outscoring the Skyhawks 15-6 in second-chance points.

Southridge didn’t need too many second chances. The Hawks shot a sizzling 61-percent (22-36) and still finished the game over 50-percent despite not scoring a field goal in the fourth quarter. Benson shot just 33-percent and turned the ball over 20 times, leading to 18 Skyhawk points. Taylor LyDay led the Techsters with 13 points and Ellington added 12. LyDay and Imani Harris tied for game-high honors with eight rebounds.

With decisive victories over three top-ten ranked teams, the Skyhawks face another Tuesday night when they host 13-1 Beaverton.