Great things happen when you work hard
Clackamas guys sweep LO, advance to the big dance for the first time in 11 seasons
Theyve battled injury, illness and heartbreak over their high school careers, and their ranks have been depleted.
But hard work, perseverance, teamwork, team pride and a never-say-die attitude finally paid dividends for the seniors on Clackamas High Schools boys basketball team Saturday night, as the senior-led Cavaliers topped longtime rival Lake Oswego 51-46 and realized their long-time dream of advancing to the big dance in Oregon high school basketball.
Saturdays win came in the final round of the Class 6A state playoffs and it advanced the Cavaliers to the eight-team Class 6A State Championship Tournament, which runs Thursday through Saturday at the Moda Center (formerly the Rose Garden).
The second-ranked Cavaliers (22-4) will open the tournament Thursday at 8:15 p.m. with a quarterfinal game with seventh-ranked Sheldon (20-6), which beat South Eugene 66-52 in Saturdays playoffs.
Its the first time since 2003, when the Cavaliers went 26-4 and beat Jesuit 63-58 in the third-place final, that a Clackamas team has advanced to the quarterfinals in boys basketball.
Its especially gratifying for the seniors on this years team. Several of them are multi-sports athletes who have played varsity sports since they were freshmen, but before Saturday, success had eluded them in basketball. Clackamas came up a game short of making the state tournament in basketball their freshmen year, and the Cavaliers were eliminated in the first round of the state playoffs their sophomore and junior seasons.
It means a lot to me, just to be able to go to the Rose Garden, said Cade Wilkins, who had to watch from the bench last year after surgery on a football knee injury. Were going to keep practicing hard. Well give it our best, and what happens happens.
For four years weve worked hard to get to the Rose Garden, but its eluded us until this year, said senior Cole Scruggs. This is hard work paying off. Well take it one game at a time and see what happens.
This has been our goal for four years, said senior Keaton Bankofier. My brothers were both on good teams but they never made it to the Rose Garden, so it means a lot. Im excited to get back to work at practice on Monday and see what we can do.
This means everything to me, said senior Andrew Gutwig. Ive been playing with this group of dudes since fifth grade.... Im excited! Getting to the Rose Garden is a great accomplishment. Its something weve work really hard for....
[Beating Lake Oswego to get to the Rose Garden] makes it even sweeter. Lake Oswegos been one of those teams thats always taken it to us until this year. Weve kept working hard and gotten better. It just goes to show that great things happen when you work hard.
Its the best feeling in the world, said Raekwon Mingledoff, who came from out of state to join the Cavaliers for his senior season. Coming from New Jersey and joining this group of guys and helping them succeed, its the best feeling Ive ever had. Theyre all such great guys. I feel like Ive been part of this team forever....
Its big! said senior David Reese. Getting to the Moda Center means everything to us. Its something weve worked really hard for. Were going to keep working hard, take it a game at a time, and see how far we can go.
Im so excited! said Clackamas coach Ryan King. And Im so proud of these kids. Theyve worked so hard for this....
That was a battle out there tonight, King said. Our kids battled to the end, just like they have all season. They dont quit. They give it everything theyve got and they leave it all on the floor.
They deserve this. Theyve earned it, and I couldnt be prouder.
Asked if hes ever coached in a game played with as much intensity as was demonstrated by both teams on Saturday night, King said, I dont think I have. Not at that level.
The two teams went at it tooth-and-nail from the opening tipoff to the final horn. It was an intense battle, with both teams playing extremely aggressively on defense pretty-much from baseline-to-baseline, and with open looks hard to come by.
There were multiple lead changes in every quarter. The score was tied at 20-all at halftime and there were five ties in the third period.
Leading 36-35 to start the final period, Clackamas went up for good a minute into the fourth quarter, at 38-37, when Gutwig followed up a fast-break bucket by the Lakers with a fast-break layup of his own.
Following a steal by Wilkins, Reese scored on a put-back to make it 40-37 Clackamas.
Reese got a steal in the lanes, and Gutwig drove the baseline for a 3-point play, to up the gap to 43-37 with five minutes to play.
Lake Oswego narrowed the gap back to two points, at 43-41. And things got tense for the Cavaliers when Lake Oswego got the ball back on a steal by Laker star playmaker Jazz Johnson.
But when Johnson attempted to take the ball to the hoop against the guard of Clackamas sophomore Mitchell Fink, Fink hit the deck and Johnson was dinged with a charging foul, his fifth foul of the game.
Following a missed shot, the Cavaliers got the ball back when they forced a turnover through aggressive play in their half-court defense.
Gutwig took a long outlet pass from a teammate and was fouled as he made a layup on the fast break. He calmly sank the free throw, putting the Cavaliers up by five points, at 46-41, with 1:34 remaining.
Bankofier got an assist from Reese for another layup. And Bankofier and Gutwig made enough free throws down the stretch for the Cavaliers to hang on for the 51-46 victory.
Bankofier (15 points), Gutwig (10 points) and Reese (8 points) led a Cavalier offensive attack that saw eight players contribute points to the winning tally.
Gutwig, who got in early foul trouble, was money in the fourth quarter, when he scored all 10 of his points.
Funk and Mingledoff played pivotal roles on defense, guarding Johnson with the help of teammates and getting the 6-2 junior in early foul trouble. Johnson scored just eight points on the night, 13 below his league-leading 21 points-per-game average.
Whether its defense or scoring, Im doing whatever it takes for my team to win, said Mingledoff.
It hurt when our point guard fouled out, said Lake Oswego coach Mark Shoff. Its only the second time hes fouled out all season.... We dont really have another point guard who can play like Jazz.
Shoff commended the Cavaliers, Clackamas played really good half-court defense tonight. They are senior dominated and it showed with their poise at the end. They deserve to be where they are.
Shoff added, Were young and well have a lot of kids coming back next year. We lost a lot of close games this year and hopefully, with senior leadership, well be like Clackamas was this year, and win the close ones.
Saturdays win was the Cavaliers third win over Lake Oswego this season. The Cavaliers won two one-point games with the Lakers (55-54 and 43-42) in league.
Asked if Clackamas has ever beaten Lake Oswego three times in the same season before this year, Shoff said, I dont think weve ever even played them three times in a season before, so it probably is the first time.
The last time Clackamas swept Lake Oswego in league was during the 2009-10 season.
lights them up
Raekwon Mingledoff lit up the scoreboard for a career-high 28 points, as the Cavaliers topped the upset-minded Aloha Warriors 59-50 in a March 5 first-round game of the Class 6A boys basketball playoffs.
The 6-2 senior wing hit six 3-pointers in the game and scored 20 points in the first half to lead the Cavaliers to a 32-25 halftime advantage.
The Warriors trimmed the gap to 37-34 in the third period, when the Cavaliers couldnt get the ball to drop, making only 2-of-13 shots from the floor.
It was still a five-point game with three minutes remaining. But the Cavaliers played tough down the stretch to secure the do-or-die victory.
Markus Golder (11 points) and Keaton Bankofier (10 points) joined Mingledoff in double digits in scoring.
Senior wing Terrell Gayhart and 6-8 senior post Steven Boswell scored 17 points apiece to lead the Warriors.
It was the sixth loss in their last seven games for the upstart Warriors (13-13), who entered the contest ranked 34th in the state.
It was the ninth win in their last 10 games for second-in-the-state-ranked Clackamas, and the win advanced the Cavaliers to their March 8 showdown with Lake Oswego.