Sophomore point guard Gabi Moultrie is averaging 16.8 points and 7.5 assists for Wilsonville. (Photo by Michael Williams)
Sophomore point guard Gabi Moultrie is averaging 16.8 points and 7.5 assists for Wilsonville. (Photo by Michael Williams)

After a 2-4 start, Wilsonville has turned a corner and is looking like a potential contender in 5A girls basketball.

The Wildcats (15-5, 9-0 Northwest Oregon Conference) have won 13 of their last 14 games and are No. 5 in the OSAAtoday 5A coaches poll. They have come a long way from when they opened the season with a 48-point loss to 6A No. 3 Willamette.

“This team has really put some things together over the course of the season,” coach Justin Duke said. “Playing another tough preseason schedule obviously helped. The team is showing a lot of growth and maturity right now, for sure.”

Four of Wilsonville's losses came against strong 6A teams in Willamette, No. 6 McMinnville, No. 10 Jesuit and Nelson. The other defeat was against 5A No. 3 Silverton. All of them were by double digits.

“Some painful games early, but that's why we do it,” Duke said of his team's schedule. “It's paying dividends now.”

Wilsonville had high expectations after bringing back several key players from last season, when the Wildcats went 13-13 overall, 11-3 in the NWOC and lost in the first round of the 5A playoffs.

Sophomore point guard Gabi Moultrie is leading the way. The 5-foot-8 Moultrie is averaging 16.8 points, 7.5 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 steals as her game continues to evolve.

“Gabi has shown a lot of maturity just in learning when to attack and score versus when to set up her teammates,” Duke said. “That's something we didn't have as much last year.”

Junior post Payton Ratcliffe (6-3), who last season suffered a shoulder injury in the second game and did not make it back until a playoff loss to Crater, has given the team a new dimension with her size and versatility. She is putting up 12.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.

“She makes a huge difference for us,” Duke said. “She's just a real match-up problem for other teams because she play on the perimeter and she can play inside. We missed her last year. She'd be a first-team all-league kid in our conference. She's got to be one of the top couple players, with Gabi.”

Audrey Counts, a 5-10 junior guard and a returning starter, is averaging 12.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.9 steals. The other starters are 5-8 junior guard Jaydn Kipe and 6-0 sophomore post Fareeda ElManhawy.

Duke said the Wildcats started to elevate their play in late December, when they reached the final of the Emerald bracket in the POA Holiday Classic. They showed resilience in beating Barlow 55-52 in overtime in the first round, ;pulling out the win after losing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.

“We started to fall apart a little bit in the fourth quarter and we still found a way to not let go,” Duke said. “To come back and win it in overtime was really good for us.”

In the second round, Wilsonville trailed Skyview (Wash.) at halftime before dominating the second half to win 59-47. The Wildcats lost to Nelson 55-44 in the bracket final.

Since that loss to Nelson, Wilsonville has dominated NWOC play, winning by an average margin of 44.3 points. At 9-0 in the conference, the Wildcats lead No. 10 La Salle Prep (12-8, 8-2) and Canby (13-8, 8-2).

Wilsonville's closest conference win is a 44-39 home win over No. 10 La Salle Prep on Jan. 22, a game in which it recovered after falling behind 10-0. It was the team's first game in 11 days due to the ice storm.

“The maturity of getting down 10-0, and not panicking, and winning that game, we wouldn't have done that last year,” Duke said.

The Wilcats have settled into their roles and a different style of play after experimenting early in the season.

“Part of the reason we struggled early is we were trying to adapt our offense to the skill sets of the kids we have,” Duke said. “We've been an up-and-down, three-point-shooting, dribble-drive team for the last seven or eight years. Now we're looking to utilize our length and height a little bit differently.”

Wilsonville won at least a share of three consecutive conference titles before finishing third behind Putnam and longtime rival La Salle Prep last season. The Wildcats are eager to get back on top.

“They came up through our youth program and watched a lot of the success that those teams had, and want to be a part of it,” Duke said.

The Wildcats also have a chance to finish unbeaten in the conference for the first time since they did it in back-to-back seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

“I know there's a desire from the group to get that done,” Duke said.

Amity, Jefferson share title

No. 2 Amity defeated No. 6 Jefferson 54-48 at home in the regular-season finale Friday to avenge a loss to the Lions and earn a share of the 3A PacWest Conference title.

Amity (20-3, 11-1) and Jefferson (20-2, 11-1) finished as co-champions. The teams will play for the conference's No. 1 seed to the state playoffs Saturday at Sprague.

It is the first league title since 1989 for Jefferson. The Lions – who beat the Warriors 52-48 on Jan. 19, ending their conference winning streak at 25 -- had a chance to claim the outright title but struggled against Amity's defense and saw their 20-game winning streak come to an end.

Amity, creating turnovers and scoring in transition, opened a 26-14 lead midway through the second quarter and extended its edge to 44-31 after three quarters.

Sophomore guards Eliza Nisly and Adie Nisly scored 15 and 12 points, respectively, to lead the Warriors, who also got 10 points from sophomore guard Alyssa McMullen.

“I think it was really our defense tonight,” Eliza Nisly said. “We know they got some really strong players and we just wanted to focus on our defense, using our athleticism to beat them.”

Jefferson junior guard Gretchen Orton scored 25 points, making three three-pointers.

-- Jeremy McDonald contributed to this report

Western Christian ends Sutherlin streak

Junior guard Runon Muroya made six three-pointers and scored 22 points to lead 2A No. 2 Western Christian past 3A No. 3 Sutherlin 53-49 in overtime Saturday.

Freshman forward Avery Herber added 11 points for the host Pioneers (24-1), who have won 20 in a row since losing to 2A No. 1 Bandon. They ended Sutherlin's 20-game winning streak.

Junior forward Addyson Clark scored 30 points – 22 in the second half – to lead Sutherlin (21-2). She made a basket in the final seconds of regulation to force overtime at 47-47.

The Bulldogs were undone by poor free throw shooting, missing six free throws in the last two minutes of regulation. They made 12 of 28 attempts for the game as Clark went 12 for 16 and the rest of the team went 0 for 12.

Starwalt sizzles for CV

Crescent Valley freshman guard Payton Starwalt excelled last week in leading the 5A No. 8 Raiders to three wins.

The 5-6 guard averaged 28.3 points, 5.3 assists and 5.0 steals as the Raiders (12-8, 10-3 Mid-Willamette Conference) defeated Dallas 60-29, Woodburn 72-37 and Canby 67-33. She made 34 of 55 field-goal attempts, including 12 of 23 from three-point range.

For the season, Starwalt is averaging 20.1 points, 4.8 assists and 4.0 steals. She is shooting 54.0 percent from the field and 44.3 percent from behind the arc (51 for 115).