DIXON – As much as they heard about it from coach Colleen Henze the past few days, there was no way the Cougars could have prepared for the Oregon Hawks' opening onslaught Thursday evening at the Dixon tournament.
Behind a tenacious defense led by Emy Wright, the Hawks sprinted out to a 17-0 lead before hanging on the rest of the way in a 63-49 victory at Lancaster Gym.
"There's just no amount of warning you can give about how much Oregon is going to come at you," said Henze, whose team committed 36 turnovers. "We don't see a lot of other teams like them; they're so quick on defense and have so many weapons on offense. They just never let you settle in."
Oregon (11-3) nabbed 28 steals, led by Wright's 11. Sam Lambrigtsen added six steals and Bree Tourtillott five more, and the Hawks turned quite a few of those thefts into points on the other end.
Wright and Lambrigtsen scored the first 15 points for Oregon, and the Cougars (11-4) didn't score until power forward Hannah Hake's basket 6 minutes, 11 seconds into the game.
"We were really ready to go, get back out on the court after the holiday break," said Wright, who had 17 points, five rebounds and two assists to go with her double-digit steals. "There are a lot of good teams at this tournament, and we wanted to make sure we had a hot start and not fall behind in games here.
"We knew they had a tall girl inside, and we just wanted to make sure we pressured the outside players and stop them from passing it into the post."
The game plan worked to perfection, at least until the Cougars got their legs underneath them. Hake scored nine of her team-high 13 points in the second half, and center Lexis Macomber had eight of her 10 points after halftime.
Hake finished off a double-double with 10 rebounds, and Macomber added nine boards as Eastland won the final three quarters 47-44.
"They have some good, quick players, and they were driving to the basket and just not missing," said Hake, who also had three steals and a block. "They wanted to steal the ball and go the other ay, and once we figured that out, we started pass- and shot-faking a lot more and working well as an entire team to get back in the game."
Eastland got as close as 10, 53-43, after back-to-back buckets by Haley Miller and Courtney Walker before Lambrigtsen helped the Hawks close things out. The Oregon junior had a pair of nice moves to the basket, one a give-and-go from Tourtillott and the other off a steal, to get the lead back to 14 with 5 minutes remaining in the game, and the Hawks made six of 10 free-throws in the final 4 minutes to hang on.
Lambrigtsen led all players with 24 points, and she dished three assists. Tourtillott had four points and three assists, and Devyn Absher added five points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.
"We knew we could put on the full-court press, but our defense got a little less aggressive after that opening run," Lambrigtsen said. "But we had a lot of girls step up make plays for us tonight, and we have such good chemistry together that we got into the flow early and kept it going."
Katrina Hatheway had seven points and two assists for Eastland, with Miller adding three assists and two steals, and Megan Janssen dishing out four assists. Miranda Grisham chipped in four points and three steals.
Oregon 63, Eastland 49
Star of the game: Sam Lambirgtsen, Oregon, 24 points, 6 steals, 3 assists
Key performers: Emy Wright, Oregon, 17 points, 11 steals, 5 rebounds, 2 assists; Hannah Hake, Eastland, 13 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals; Lexis Macomber, Eastland, 10 points, 9 rebounds
Up next: Dixon tournament – Eastland vs. Stillman Valley, 1:30 p.m. today; Oregon vs. United Township, 7:30 p.m. today