The East Linn Christian Academy girls basketball team is off to its best start in 20 years.
The Eagles are 6-1 and were unbeaten until Friday night’s 40-37 loss to Regis in Stayton.
ELCA won its opener against Regis, 48-43, on May 24, and then reeled off victories over Oakridge, Jefferson, Monroe and Oakland. On Thursday night, the Eagles defeated visiting Lowell, 38-26, to improve their record at that time to 6-0.
The Eagles held a narrow 23-22 lead after three quarters. Lowell outscored ELCA in the third quarter as the Red Devils made three 3-pointers during that quarter.
ELCA coach Scott Roth said that is a danger of his team’s defensive approach. The Eagles play a tight zone that is focused on limiting scoring in the paint. The downside is that opposing offenses can sometimes find clean 3-point opportunities.
The team discussed its defense during a third-quarter timeout and the Eagles did a much better job of closing out on shooters. Lowell didn’t make another 3-pointer and after taking the lead early in the fourth quarter struggled to score for the remainder of the game. ELCA outscored Lowell 15-4 in the final quarter.
“Every game seems to be a battle, it stays close, and somehow the girls come out and do their thing,” Roth said. “When they got down here, it didn’t seem to faze them at all. They’re really a joy to coach.”
Junior Moriah Jayne, a 6-foot-post, led the Eagles with a game-high 13 points. Sophomore guard Brooklyn Garber added seven points and senior guard Ellie Roth scored six points.
“We found the hot hand early and rode it through,” coach Scott Roth said of Jayne.
Jayne had a size advantage in the lane and her teammates consistently found her for high-percentage attempts. Jayne said she knew it was going to be a good game when she saw that Lowell’s post was attempting to front her and deny the entry pass. Jayne was confident that her teammates could find her with passes over the top.
“It’s great. We’ve got lots of trust on this team,” Jayne said. “It’s been a crazy year and we’re really happy that we’re coming back so strong.”
The Eagles were scheduled to host Central Linn on Tuesday, June 8, and will then play four consecutive road games before hosting Oakland on June 17. The Eagles are currently a half-game behind Regis in the Central Valley Conference standings.
Roth is pleased with the way this team is coming together and is excited to see what it can achieve.
“I really like this team. In the past, at a small school, you might have one or two that are standouts. This team is very unselfish. In our six games, we’ve had four or five different leading scorers. We’ve been taking what the defense gives us. Tonight, it was Mo’s turn to shine,” Roth said.