Dragons face loss in season opener

Emma Classen shoots a long range jumper during their season opener against The Dalles.

Mike Weber/for the Itemizer-Observer
Emma Classen shoots a long range jumper during their season opener against The Dalles.

THE DALLES — The Dragons girls basketball team began the 2018-19 season with a Nov. 28 nonleague match-up on the road against The Dalles Riverhawks.

Both squads had nearly identical win-loss records last season, so both teams had hopes of starting the year with the momentum of a victory.

In the end, it was The Dalles (Intermountain Conference, 1-0 overall) that came out on top with a 36-20 win over the Dragons.

The Dragons (Mid-Willamette Conference, 0-1), guided by first-year head coach Dakota Griffith, are starting the year with a new group of girls, and only one returner from last season.

“We’re kind of a young unit and a very inexperienced varsity group, with the exception of Emma Classen, who is our most experienced varsity player,” said Griffith. “It’s going to be a learning experience for us, because we have two sophomores and a freshman (Ruby Earhart) in our starting lineup. We’ll keep battling and keep improving and our shooting will get better. We couldn’t put the ball in the hole, and it just wasn’t our night offensively.”

The contest had two early deadlocks and two lead changes. Dallas sophomore guard Madelyn Loughary, who nabbed a team-high seven points throughout the contest, gave the Dragons their only lead of the game at 4-2 when she fired in a jumper from the corner with five minutes left in the first quarter.

“It was exciting to start a new season, but we were hoping to play a little better,” said Loughary. “We just need to focus on keep coming out and having a strong performance, and then we’ll be doing good and we should have a fun season. We took lots of good shots and we thought that we might’ve had a chance to come back and get a win. I expect our team to play much better in our next game.”

The Dalles then went on a 9-0 run to build an 11-4 advantage. Dallas sophomore guard Maddie Doig, who contributed four points, sank two free throws to trim the margin to 11-6 at the end of the quarter.

“I expected us to play better than we did, and if we could have made half of our shots, then it probably would’ve been a much closer game,” said Doig. “We’re all going to have our off days, but Madelyn had a great game and she played awesome. I think we definitely could have competed better than what we did. We just have to improve a few aspects of our game and when we do that then we’ll be a much better team.”

Both teams struggled to score in the second quarter. Classen, who added five points, sank a free throw following a Riverhawk foul, making it 11-7 with 3:47 left in the quarter.

“We’re just getting started in a new season with a whole new dynamic and lots of new and younger players,” said Classen. “I think that after everyone improves and we start playing together better, then we’ll be a pretty good team and we’ll have a lot to look forward to throughout the season. We definitely felt like we had a chance to win the game at halftime. They (The Dalles) were making their shots and we had a tough night, because our shots were not going in.”

Both teams fired in a few more shots before halftime, with The Dalles leading 14-9.

As the battle continued, the Dragons just couldn’t develop an offensive rhythm in the third, and they couldn’t sink many perimeter shots. The Dalles was rolling offensively and had a 10-0 run to build a 24-9 lead.

With 3:20 on the clock, Loughary sank a jumper from the corner, making it 24-11. The Dragons were outscored 16-4 in the quarter and they fell behind 30-13 after three.

“We’re hoping to have a better record than we had last year,” said Griffith. “Wins and losses are not as important to me though, because we’re more concerned about just seeing that constant improvement in our physical play and quickness out on the court. We’re just hoping that the younger kids will continue to improve so that they’ll get accustomed to having a more positive and upbeat environment throughout the season.”

The Dragons host St. Helens on Tuesday after press time.

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