Heartbreak hit the Beaverton girls basketball team in what could only be described in a cold and callous way.
With a shot at the state championship game on the line, Beaver sophomore star Sydney Erikstrup was fouled with 6.8 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. Tied at 52-52 with No. 7 Benson in the Class 6A semifinals, Erikstrup's first attempt rolled off the rim, but her second try was true and swished through the net, giving Beaverton a 53-52 lead.
After an oscillating, rollicking fourth quarter with two great teams going toe-to-toe, the No. 2 Beavers appeared destined for a third matchup with No. 1 Southridge in the 6A title game.
Then fate stepped in, in the form of Benson superstar Tayler Lyday.
Lyday, who had already scored 32 points, caught the inbounds pass on a dead sprint and bolted down the right side of the floor. The Beavers, not wanting to foul Lyday after a tightly called contest by the officials, tried to stay even with the Techster junior and impede her path, but Lyday never lost speed.
Her eyes never strayed left or right as she breezed across the timeline. And with Beaverton backpedaling into the paint, arms skyward, trying to pressure and pester, but not make contact, Lyday took two long steps toward the rim and lifted a right-handed scoop that hit the lip of the rim and rolled in as time expired. Lyday's game-winner sent Benson to the state title contest with the 54-53 win at the Chiles Center. The Techsters face No. 1 Southridge at 3:15 p.m. on Saturday.
"It all happened so fast," Beaverton sophomore point guard Mary Kay Naro said. "We were going to try and contain them and put a little of pressure on them, so they couldn't go right by, but we just ran right at them and (Lyday) made a heck of a play."
In a matter of six seconds, Beaverton went from elated to crestfallen to crushed. Basketball has good been to many of the Beaver players and will continue to be as they get older and move onto to bigger and better goals associated with the game. Beaverton's future is ultra bright both as a program and as individual prospects. Many see state championships and Division One rides on the horizon. But on Friday afternoon, the Beavers were dealt a cruel hand. Beaverton plays West Linn in the third-place game Saturday at 1:15 p.m.
"It just sucks right now," Mary Kay Naro said.
Lyday's heroic effort was the exclamation point on a wild fourth quarter ending that had the Chiles Center crowd on its feet. With Beaverton up 47-46, Lyday came out of nowhere along the baseline to block a Sydney Erikstrup layup and then went right to the rim on the other end for two to give Benson a 48-47 lead. Yet, Sydney Erikstrup set a hard ball screen on Mary Kay Naro's defender, which freed the point guard enough to draw Alexa Borter's defender over to help on the drive. The sophomore floor general made the read and kicked to Borter who buried the go-ahead left wing three to reclaim a 50-48 lead. Then, Sydney Erikstrup drew a charge on Lyday, cutting off the junior and getting her body in front of the Techster wing. And on the next trip down Sydney Erikstrup put home a lefty layup to give Beaverton a 52-48 lead with 45.8 seconds to go in the fourth.
Lyday made a free throw on ensuing possession to bring Benson within 52-49 with 32.4 seconds left, but back-rimmed the second attempt. A bushel of Benson and Beaverton players both got on the floor for the jump ball and with the possession arrow pointed their way, the Techster retained the basketball with 28 seconds to go. Benson junior Cierra Ellington caught a swing pass form Lyday, pump faked the Beaverton chasing defense, cleared herself enough space with a step back to her right and swished the tying three, 52-52. It was Ellington's only hoop of the day.
"We'd punch them and they'd punch us right back," Mary Kay Naro said. "We didn't get the last one. I thought we were pretty focused and connected."
There were stretches of the game where Beaverton had Benson completely on the ropes. The Techsters couldn't guard Sydney (23 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists) or Laura Erikstrup (10 points, 6 boards) on the low block or out on the perimeter. Mary Kay Naro was too quick, too shifty for Benson's guards. She was able to have her way driving to the basket and either scoring (10 points) or distributing (5 assists) with equal authority. Beaverton led by nine in the second quarter after a 10-second period when Beaverton (23-3) made two steals in a six-point burst. And in the fourth, the Beavers got out to a 42-32 lead thanks to five points from Sydney Erikstrup and a wicked right-to-left crossover and finish by Mary Kay Naro that parted the Techster defense like the Moses did the Red Sea.
But every time the game started to slip Beaverton's direction, Benson responded. Mary Kay Naro said the Beavers didn't put Benson away when they had the chance and it caught up to them in the fourth. Beaverton, a team that prides itself on protecting the basketball, turned the ball over 17 times, some of which were unforced, some of which were the byproduct of Benson's ball pressure.
"One play doesn't determine the whole game," Mary Kay Naro said. "We had a couple of really bad turnovers. We could've taken care of the ball better, boxed out better."
Credit Lyday for Benson's tenacity and toughness, however. The junior, who transferred to Benson last season after starting her career at Jesuit, was equally lethal as Sydney Erikstrup off the dribble, in transition, in isolation situations. Lyday carried Benson, not just for a quarter or two, but all 32 minutes, wire-to-wire, until the bitter end. Lyday made 12-of-17 field goals and shot 10-of-16 at the free throw line for her career-high 34. With nearly all of Beaverton and Benson's key players scheduled to come back next season, a rematch somewhere down the line seems within reason. When and if it does in 2019, Beaverton said hopefully they'll be ready for lies in front of them in Lyday.
"(Lyday) was awesome," Mary Kay Naro said. "We threw so many people at her, tried a lot of different things. She was able to score on us and did a great job. If we ever get to play them again, hopefully, we adjust."
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