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Sunday, October 1, 2023
Oct. 1, 2023

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Evergreen girls basketball team prevails over Heritage in 3A GSHL matchup

Behind collective team effort, Evergreen hands Heritage first loss of the season

By , Columbian staff writer

With nearly half of the team new to the school and a first-year head coach stepping in, this year’s Evergreen girls basketball team was built, essentially, from scratch.

Just two weeks into the 2022-23 season, the Plainsmen already have more wins (three) than they did all of the previous season and are quickly putting others on notice in the 3A Greater St. Helens League.

Evergreen’s 64-55 win on Friday over Heritage, a previously-undefeated team through three games, was proof of that.

Senior Lavalerie Lindsey scored a team-high 24 points, freshman Kimora Ross added 23 points and after an opening quarter with six lead changes, the Plainsmen never trailed over the final three quarters by staving off several rallies from the Timberwolves.

“Couldn’t be more proud of my girls at this point in the season,” said Evergreen coach Charles Neal. “We’re only (four) games in, these girls are all brand new to the program for the most part, they’ve never played together. We’ve been really trying to fight to find our chemistry, find our niche and learn how to play together with each other.”

14 Photos
Heritage freshman Jaila Ellis, center, splits two Evergreen defenders Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, during the T-Wolves’ 64-55 loss to Evergreen at Heritage High School.
Girls Basketball: Evergreen at Heritage Photo Gallery

The scary part for opponents is, the team hasn’t fully jelled yet.

That’s to be expected for a team that welcomed Adrian Wright, Aiyanah Sefronio-Byrd, Leigh Ann Herboth and Lindsey from other programs and three freshmen, Ross included.

Then there’s Neal, an Evergreen High alumnus who’s coached AAU with additional experience in youth basketball development, but this coaching job is his first in the Evergreen School District. His brother, Chris Neal, is the associate head coach of Evergreen’s boys basketball team.

Coming off of Evergreen’s first loss against Class 4A Skyview one night earlier, the head coach called the win over Heritage the team’s most complete performance of the young season.

“I think tonight (Friday) was the first time that we really had a collective effort with all of our players showing up and playing their respective roles,” Neal said. “Just really sticking in there, trusting the process, trusting their training, trusting the coach and getting the job done. I’m proud of them.”

The test for Heritage, led by Keanna Salavea’s 25 points, was unlike anything the Timberwolves had seen in three prior games. In particular, how to handle Evergreen’s full-court press that often disrupted Heritage from getting into its half-court offense.

“It was a totally different brand having them come into our building as more of a faster, quicker opponent and honestly, they surprised me (with) how well they shot the ball,” Heritage coach Jacob Kaler said. “Credit to them. They’re well-coached. They sort of made us play their game. The three games prior to this one were much different teams.”

The two teams will play again on Jan. 20 at Evergreen, which is more notable now because of how Friday’s game ended.

As the teams went through the post-game handshake line, a verbal altercation between multiple Heritage and Evergreen players briefly turned physical with pushing and shoving until they were separated several seconds later.

“By the time I looked over there, I saw kind of a mosh of maybe four Heritage girls and four Evergreen girls,” Kaler said. “It was up close, and the next thing I knew, I saw that mosh kind of going side to side. I never saw a fist, I never saw an extension or anything like that.

“It was definitely chirpy on the court. Both sides. My players were telling me that they heard some things. Of course, it was both ways. … It definitely was competitive and it built up to that point.”

The incident appeared to be related to a play near the end of the game when a Heritage player pushed an Evergreen player from behind for a foul. Those two, and multiple other players on the court continued to exchange words while the Evergreen player made two free throws with 16 seconds left.

“Tempers flare, man. It’s a competitive game, you know what I mean?” Neal said. “I don’t know what was said amongst the girls, but they had some words to exchange to each other. We got it calmed down, settled down, we all get to go home safe and we’ll see them again in (January).”


EVERGREEN — Lavalerie Lindsey 24, Modesta Rivera 0, Naomi Dain 0, Kimora Ross 23, Christina Nguyen 0, Aiyanah Sefronio-Byrd 8, Adrian Wright 9. Totals 22 (11) 9-10 64.

HERITAGE — Keira Stivers 0, Victoria Males 0, Mariah Bibens 12, Jordis Taylor 0, Jaila Ellis 6, Keanna Salavea 25, Samantha Solis 0, Braidee Goodwin 12. Totals 24 (2) 5-15 55.

Evergreen 18 16 18 14—64

Heritage 17 11 13 14—55

JV — 33-32 Heritage