LEBANON — The Lebanon High girls basketball team continued its December dominance Tuesday night against visiting Bend.
Fueled by their lockdown full-court defense, the Warriors pieced together a methodical 26-3 run that spanned large portions of the second and third quarters, turning a tight contest into a rout. Lebanon cruised from there to claim a 50-36 nonconference victory, its fifth straight to open the season.
“I really liked how we moved the ball and how we were attacking so well,” said Lebanon sophomore post Ellie Croco, who led all players with 19 points. “We’ve been practicing as hard as we’ve ever been and we were excited to be playing one of the best teams in the state. We were ready to bring it.”
The Warriors (5-0) entered Tuesday’s matchup at No. 7 in the OSAA 5A power rankings. Bend (4-1), a state semifinalist in 2016-17, was ranked fourth.
“We knew they were going to be tough,” Lebanon coach Mardy Benedict said. “There were some ups and downs throughout the game, and we just challenged the girls and they stepped up. They played well defensively and did a lot of good things.”
Lebanon utilized multiple defenses to stifle the Lava Bears during its 26-3 run. Bend’s first points of the second half came with 2:35 remaining in the third quarter, a Kaycee Brown bucket that made it 39-16.
When Bend turned up the full-court pressure, the Warriors successfully broke it more often than not.
“I think we just tried to focus on staying under control and not going too fast,” Croco said. “We stayed calm and passed the ball.”
Croco and sophomore guard Mary Workman (11 points) were the lone Warriors to reach double figures. Josie Williamson tallied seven points and Kayla Klym added six off the bench.
Kylee Roath led the Lava Bears with 12 points.
A Williamson elbow 3-pointer gave Lebanon a 13-8 lead after the opening period. Croco, a first-team all-Mid-Willamette Conference pick last winter, netted eight of the Warriors’ first-quarter points.
Lebanon closed the half on a 13-3 spurt, going up 26-14 when Paige Wombacher hit Klym for a transition layin.
Bend made just five first-half field goals — one in the second quarter — and was 4 of 6 from the foul line. The Warriors didn’t attempt a free throw in the opening half.
Workman’s second 3 of the evening made it 29-14 early in the third. Four straight from Croco and a Workman steal and layin put the hosts up 35-14 as Bend struggled to stop the bleeding.
“I think it was a commitment to playing hard,” Benedict said of the mid-game run. “It was a commitment to doing the things we needed to do. Because in the past, we would always have someone lost so we’d give up open things and we’d try to help off the wrong person. And today, they were talking and started doing more.”
Lebanon led 41-20 after three quarters.
The Warriors are off for the next week before opening Emerald Cup play next Tuesday against Willamette at Churchill High in Eugene. The team hosts Central on Jan. 9 to begin MWC play.
A season ago, Lebanon dropped six of its last seven games to miss the 5A state playoffs. The young Warriors are eager to get back.
“The biggest thing for us is to continually get better every game and every practice,” Benedict said. “We’ve got a tough league, one of the best in the state. So if we can keep getting better every day, I think good things are going to happen.”