There is simply Prairie and everyone else.
The gap between Prairie's girls basketball team and the rest of the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League came into focus Thursday. But not in the way you'd expect.
The Falcons, after beating Columbia River 56-35, felt anguished by missed opportunities, mistakes and the growing pains of a young team.
"We didn't really play our best today," junior wing Lindsey Asplund said. "But I think it's going to be really good for us. We realize that if we want to make it far, we have to change things."
The Chieftains, who entered Thursday tied with Prairie at 3-0, held their heads high.
"We were competitive tonight," River coach Carl Click said. "The girls going into this thought they could be competitive. This proves to them that they can play with the best team in the league."
Yes, a 21-point margin left the winner frustrated and the runner-up encouraged.
Thursday's game had the look of a blowout early. Prairie sprinted to a 13-1 lead as its pressure defense forced five early turnovers.
Then River settled down. The Chieftains ended the first quarter on a 7-0 run.
"It's not hard to prepare for because you know exactly what you're going to get," Click said of Prairie's defense. "But it's hard to get the kids to understand the intensity of it."
Prairie stretched the lead to 21-8 midway through the second quarter. River never cut the lead to under double-digits the rest of the game.
But stretches of ragged play and wild shooting kept Prairie from putting its stamp on the game.
"They always hustle," Falcons coach Brett Johnson said. "But a lot of times we're out of position. We still have to learn about where we need to be, especially on the press."
Chalk it up to growing pains for a Prairie team with two seniors, only one of which played significant minutes Thursday.
"A lot of people thought we weren't going to do much this year because we lost so many starters," Johnson said. "But these girls have a lot of potential."
Asplund led all scorers with 16 points, including three 3-pointers. Nicole Goecke added 10 points for the Falcons.
Marion Lilly led River with eight points. Teaghan Cowles and Megan Bloom added six each.
River sits alone in second place as the league season nears its halfway point. Click hopes Thursday's test gives his team a confidence boost against the rest of their GSHL rivals.
"Our league is really tight with a whole bunch of teams in the middle that are really competitive," Click said. "We managed to get through those first three games with wins. We just need to stretch that out. Part of that is just believing you can do it."
PRAIRIE 56, COLUMBIA RIVER 35
COLUMBIA RIVER -- Ana Delgadillo 2, Marion Lilly 8, Kate Kraft 3, Teaghan Cowles 6, Jenna Joy 2, Holli Jo Chose 4, Megan Bloom 6, Ellie Walker 2, Morgan Anthony 2. Totals 14 (0) 7-15 35.
PRAIRIE -- Nicole Goecke 10, Lindsey Asplund 16, Emily Peters 7, Jamie Phares 3, Jordan Adams 0, Cherita Daugherty 6, Natalie Whitesel 4, Grace Prom 5, Jozie Tangeman 5. Totals 18 (6) 14-22 56.
Col. River 8 7 13 7--35
Prairie 13 14 15 14--56
JV -- Prairie 52-7.