A low-scoring third quarter punctuated a tight girl’s basketball contest between St. Helens and South Albany on Friday night.

The Lions went into a stall in the second half, nursing a small lead and it nearly cost them as South rode strong inside play in the fourth quarter. The Rebels got close but never led, falling 34-31.

It didn’t look like it would be a close contest early as the Lions jumped out to a 16-9 lead after one quarter. St. Helens benefited from a pair of 3-pointers and was a step quicker than the South Albany zone as the Lions were able to build their lead.

The Rebels fought back in the second as Elizabeth Oleman established herself in the post. Oleman scored six of her team-high 12 points in the frame, but the Rebels still trailed by eight heading into the second half.

That’s when the Lions began to stall.

“I wish we had a shot clock, that hurt us,” coach Teresa Guerra said.

The Rebels held St. Helens to only two points in the quarter but could only chop two points off the deficit, getting a pair of baskets from Oleman.

Oleman had been the driving force of the Rebels offense through much of the game but picked up her fourth foul early in the fourth quarter relegating her to a spectator for much of the final frame.

“I didn’t move my feet,” Oleman said, “I was focused on the ball and I just didn’t move quick enough. I noticed right after it happened.”

St. Helens continued to hold the ball and be very selective with its shots. With the Rebels in foul trouble, the Lions had an opportunity to put the game away but missed nine foul shots in the quarter which kept the Rebels in the game.

“We were stressing some defense," Guerra said. "Just ‘in your face’ denial and really getting on the girls about that. We’re young and that’s something we have to work on getting ready for league.”

Trailing by six in the waning minutes, Paige Diller banked in a shot from the block and drew a foul. She completed the three-point play and pulled South within three with 1:22 on the clock.

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“I just had a drive to help because I wanted us to win,” Diller said.

South had opportunities to pull closer or tie but the teams traded turnovers. The Rebels had the last say following a turnover in the St. Helens backcourt. South got the ball in but could not get a look from the outside as the Lions preserved their lead and got away with a win.

“We have to keep working on our outside shooting and passing and being a threat like that,” Guerra said.

Now in her third year, Guerra is looking for the Rebels to continue building success. In her first year, South managed just one league win but got two a year ago.

As the Rebels take steps forward, Guerra is looking for her team to continue improving as they inch closer to league play.

“We’re looking to improve each year,” Guerra said, “We had a lot more close games last year and that’s what we’re looking for. Just improve this year. Preseason is preparing us for the season, definitely.”

The Rebels will have an opportunity to improve more when they travel to Centennial on Tuesday.

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