BYRON – Sam Lambrigtsen and the Oregon defense knew where to find Ellie Lehne.
The tall junior forward from Byron likes to start at the top of the key before working toward the basket.a
The Hawks also knew where to find sharpshooters like Mayson Whipple and Nicole Silvers. But it was Keelyn Swanson the Hawks didn't account for on Thursday, and it cost them.
Swanson scored all seven her points in the fourth quarter, as the Tigers pulled away from the Hawks for a 55-44 Big Northern West win in Byron.
"We have to go straight up on defense with Lehne because we don't have the height," Lambrigtsen said. "That's all we can really do to her. We also try to drive at her to get her into foul trouble. We did that tonight, but it was some of the girls that we didn't expect to score that hit some big shots."
Byron (21-3, 6-1) led most of the night after jumping out to a 7-2 lead. The final two points of that run came from Whipple, which put the Byron senior over 1,000 points for her career.
Oregon (15-8, 5-3) fought back and managed to gain three briefs leads. The Hawks led twice during the second quarter, at 17-16 and 19-18.
Their last lead came at 36-35 on a basket by Lambrigtsen to open the fourth quarter. Byron responded with 3-pointers by Lehne and Whipple to pull ahead by five.
"It seemed like we had some momentum," Lambrigtsen said. "But every time we'd get ahead, they'd make a couple 3-pointers."
Oregon fought back, pulling within three points at 43-40 after a three-point play by Lambrigtsen.
That's when the Swanson show started. She hustled to the basket for a rebound on the next possession and made the putback while being fouled. She missed the free throw.
Oregon's Kimmie Janke made a nice move and finished her drive with a short jumper on the next possession. Janke and Kelsey Pudlas were a big part the post defense that kept Lehne and freshman Bailey Burrows in check. Byron also held only a 32-30 rebounding advantage.
"It's all heart for those girls on the boards," Oregon coach Kristy Eckhardt said. "We come out most games with the disadvantage under the hoop, but they fight for position and hustle for the ball."
Janke's shot proved to be the last field goal for the Hawks.
On the next possession, Whipple found Swanson open in the corner. The junior guard nailed the shot to give Byron the 48-42 lead.
"Keelyn can make those shots," Byron coach Eric Yerly said. "She doesn't have to shoot from out there that much, because we have so many other girls that can shoot. She made the big plays when we needed them in the fourth quarter."
After an empty possession by Oregon, Swanson was fouled. She hit both shots to make it a three-possession game at 50-42. Byron went 5-for-6 from the free-throw line the rest of the way to ice the game.
Lambrigtsen finished with a game-high 24 points, and she also had six rebounds and three steals. Emy Wright added 11 points, but no other Hawk scored more than three points.
Lehne had 18 points, and Whipple had 12. Swanson had nine rebounds to go with her seven points.
"You always know it's going to be a tough game against Oregon," Yerly said. "Sammy [Lambrigtsen] is such a good player. In this conference, every team has a very good player. It's a challenge to stop them.
"It comes down to making a couple big shots and making free throws at the end. We did that tonight."
Byron 55, Oregon 44
Star of the game: Sam Lambrigtsen, Oregon, 24 points, 6 rebounds
Key performers: Ellie Lehne, Byron, 18 points, four rebounds; Mayson Whipple, Byron, 12 points, 6 assists
Up next: Oregon at Mendota, 7;15 Saturday