Rough second half hurts Tigard in 59-40 playoff loss

by: DAN BROOD - TOUGH DEFENSE -- Tigard senior Nick Kaelin (right), the Pacific Conference Defensive Player of the Year, keeps a close eye on Central Catholic junior guard Deante Strickland. PORTLAND — Any team can have a bad half.

Unfortunately for the Tigard High School boys basketball team, it suffered through its bad half of action at maybe the absolute worst time.

The Tigers, after holding a 27-22 halftime lead, fell 59-40 to Central Catholic in a Class 6A state playoff second round game played Saturday at Central Catholic High School.

“Unfortunately, we had our worst half of the season,” Tigard coach Shawn Alderman said. “We just had a ton of turnovers and missed a lot of free throws.”

Central Catholic, the Mt. Hood Conference champion, improved to 17-9 on the season with the victory. The Rams also advance to play in the Class 6A state tournament. They’ll face top-ranked West Linn today (Thursday) at 1:30 p.m. in a tourney quarterfinal game.

“Central Catholic played a great second half,” Alderman said of Saturday’s state playoff contest. “(Junior point guard Deante) Strickland makes them tough.”

Tigard, the Pacific Conference champion, finished its season with a final overall record of 18-7.

“it was a good season,” Alderman said. “Our first goal was to win the conference championship, and we did that.”

Tigard got off to a strong start in Saturday’s contest. The Tigers, shooting at a 7-for-10 clip from the field, held a 15-11 lead over the Rams at the end of the first quarter, with senior A.J. Hotchkins, senior Elijah Simon and junior Joel Johnson each scoring four points for Tigard in the opening period.

Johnson, a 6-foot-8 post, scored eight more points in the second quarter, helping the Tigers take a 27-22 halftime lead.

But Central Catholic took over in the second half, outscoring the Tigers 37-13 over the final two quarters to get the 59-40 victory.

Johnson, despite battling foul troubles in the second half, led all scorers in the contest with 18 points. Hotchkins added 11 points and Simon scored four.

Sophomore La’Mar Winston led Central Catholic with 15 points. Junior Blake Brandel scored 12 points, junior Xavier Hallinan and Strickland each added 10 points for the Rams, with Strickland scoring all 10 of his points in the second half.

The playoff loss marked the final high school game for Tigard seniors Bryan Berg, Nick Kaelin, Nathanael Ditton, Jett Even, Daniel Webster, Simon, Niko Niblack and Hotchkins.

“They had a tremendous impact on our program,” Alderman said of the seniors. “The kids that were with us the last two years went 27-1 in league. We’ll be losing a lot, not only with what they did on the court, but with what they brought in leadership.”

Among the key players who could return for Tigard next year are Johnson, junior guard Brady McGetrick and junior wing Nick Brown.

“We’re going to take some time off, but we’re excited for next year,” Alderman said.

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