The Cavaliers drop nailbiters to Sheldon and Sunset

by: JON HOUSE - Clackamas senior Keaton Bankofier (22) gets hammered by Sheldon senior post Mitch Herbert (5) as he takes the ball to the basket in the Class 6A quarterfinals.A tremendous season ended in heartbreak for Clackamas’ senior-dominated boys basketball team, as the second-in-the-state-ranked Cavaliers bowed out of the Class 6A State Championship Tournament with two straight losses.

The Cavaliers lost to sixth-ranked Sunset 60-55 in the March 14 consolation semifinals, after dropping a 65-57 barnburner to seventh-ranked Sheldon in the March 13 championship quarterfinals.

Both losses were contests that could have just as easily gone the other way. The game with Sunset was tied at 55-55 with 1:06 to play; and the contest with Sheldon was a two-point game, with Clackamas trailing 58-56, when Raekwon Mingledoff hit a 3-pointer with 1:09 remaining.

In a very balanced eight-team state-tournament field, the Cavaliers proved themselves without question one of the top high school teams in Oregon in 2014.

Sheldon went on to lose to defending state champion West Linn (67-56) in the state final, while Sunset went on to beat South Medford (50-44) in the fourth-place final.

Clackamas finished the year with an overall record of 22-6, its only losses in preseason to Barlow (64-63) and to nationally-ranked Whitney Young out of Illinois, to 2014 state champion West Linn twice in Three Rivers League play (63-43 and 81-61), and to Sheldon and Sunset at the state tournament.

Despite their lack of success at the state tournament, it was a year of tremendous accomplishment for the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers this season advanced to the state quarterfinals and the state tournament’s final site for the first time since 2003. They finished second only to West Linn in the TRL, with an 8-2 record; they beat Lake Oswego all three times that they played the Lakers — a first in school history; they went 3-1 and earned the consolation prize in the prestigious 16-team Les Schwab Invitational holiday tournament; and they finished the season ranked second-in-the-state only to West Linn in the OSAA RPI rankings, which rank teams based on their win-loss record and difficulty of schedule.

“These kids have given it a great effort all season,” said Clackamas coach Ryan King. “It would have been nice to come down here and have different results, but the kids gave it their all and we had a great season nonetheless. We’ve accomplished every one of our goals this year....”

“It’s been a great experience, playing in the Moda Center,” said Clackamas senior Cade Wilkins. “Not many teams get to come down here and play. It’s a great honor.... Overall, I think it’s been a pretty good year, making it down here and being ranked second [in the OSAA power rankings] most of the year.”

“It’s been a great experience,” said Cavalier senior Keaton Bankofier. “All of us seniors have played together since we were young. The new guys stepped it up and joined us this year and helped us accomplish some goals that we haven’t been able to accomplish before. We got to the Moda Center, but just couldn’t quite get it done. But we accomplished a lot. We accomplished more this year than we’ve accomplished in the last three years....

“The high point [in the season] for me was when we took consolation in the Les Schwab Tournament. We went 3-1, after going 1-3 in the tournament last year, and our loss was to one of the top teams in the country.”

Bankofier added, “I wanted to do better, but it was really fun playing [at the Moda Center]. “It’s a great atmosphere. I’ve wanted to come here my whole life....”

The loss to Sunset in the loser-out game was a bitter pill, because the Cavaliers had beaten the Apollos 68-60 in a preseason game at Sunset. And the two senior-dominated teams had met twice during the 2012-13 season, with Sunset winning both of those games.

Clackamas’ 65-57 loss to Sheldon in the March 13 quarterfinals of the 2014 Class 6A State Boys Basketball Championships was especially painful, because the Cavaliers played their hearts out, and, had it not been for one pivotal late-game judgment call by an official, or a bounce or two of the basketball, Clackamas could have very easily come out on top.

The pivotal official’s call came with just under a minute to play. Clackamas was trailing 58-56 and Clackamas senior Keaton Bankofier went to the floor when Sheldon senior guard Nick Nestell drove the lane. Fans at both ends of the floor thought that Nestell would be called for charging. But the officials saw it the other way.

Nestell got two free throws, made them both, and the Irish lead was four points, at 60-56.

Bankofier played for 24 minutes of the 32-minute game and it was the only foul he was charged with in the game.

Sheldon then salted the game away with 5-for-6 free throw shooting down the stretch, and claimed the spoils.

The Irish led through much of the game, building their lead by attacking the basket and forcing Cavalier turnovers through their aggressive defensive play with the full-court press and in the half-court.

But the Cavaliers battled, and stayed close throughout.

Trailing 36-30 near the midpoint of the third period, the Cavaliers scored on three straight possessions and took the lead.

A putback by David Reese trimmed Sheldon’s lead to 36-32.

Clackamas sophomore point guard Mitchell Fink then turned it up on defense and teamed up with senior wing Andrew Gutwig for a pair of buckets, stealing the ball and sending it ahead to Gutwig for a layup, and then stealing it again and sending it ahead to Gutwig for a trey.

Gutwig’s 3-pointer from the corner with 3:34 to play gained the Cavaliers their first lead since early in the first quarter, at 37-36.

Following a Sheldon bucket, Clackamas junior post Marcus Golder was fouled on the fast break and made two charity tosses to keep Clackamas on top, at 39-38.

Sheldon senior wing Peter Wood drove the lane to gain Sheldon a 40-39 edge heading into the final period.

The Irish then appeared to have the game in hand, as they scored on their first five possessions of the fourth quarter to build their biggest lead of the night, at 52-44.

But there was no quit in the Cavaliers. Bankofier scored six straight points, hitting 4-of-4 free throws and scoring a layup on a pass from Fink to trim Sheldon’s lead to 52-50 with 2:55 remaining.

Sheldon took advantage of a Cavalier turnover to score a bucket and two free throws to up the gap to six points, at 56-50.

But Gutwig hit a hand-in-his-face 3-pointer to cut the Irish lead back to three points.

A layup by Sheldon post Mitch Herbert made it 58-53 Sheldon.

Following a Clackamas turnover and an Irish missed free throw, the Cavaliers got renewed hope when Mingledoff cashed in from 3-point land to make it a two-point game, at 58-56, with 1:09 remaining.

But the pivotal foul charged to Bankofier on Nestell’s drive to the basket upped the Irish lead to 60-56, and Sheldon held on for the hard fought victory.

Herbert (17 points) and Nestell (13 points) led a balanced Irish offensive attack that saw eight players score.

Led by Mingledoff (13 points), Bankofier (11 points) and Gutwig (10 points), Clackamas also had eight players score. Fink had 7 points and 5 assists.

Bankofier led Clackamas to a 24-19 advantage in rebounding, with five rebounds.

Thanks to their emphasis on their inside game, the Irish had a good night of shooting, connecting on 23-of-40 (57.5 percent) of their shots from the floor — with four 3-pointers. They were also a hot-handed 15-of-17 (.882) from the charity stripe.

The Cavaliers made 18-of-39 (.462) field goals and 15-of-23 (.652) free throws.

Clackamas had 20 turnovers, while the Irish had only nine.

The consolation semifinal game with Sunset was one with wide swings in momentum.

Sunset took advantage of Clackamas’ lukewarm shooting at the start of the game to go up 11-3.

But after going 3-for-12 from the field in the first quarter, the Cavaliers attacked the basket, crashed the backboards and turned hot in the second period, making 10-of-16 shots and rallying to a 27-23 halftime lead.

Sunset turned more aggressive on offense in the third period, and the Apollos rallied back to take a 47-45 lead heading into the final period.

The two teams battled tooth-and-nail in the final period.

Mingledoff’s 3-pointer with five minutes to play pulled the Cavaliers within a point, at 50-51.

And when Cade Wilkins followed up a steal by Andrew Gutwig with a 3-pointer with 3:59 remaining, the Cavaliers were back on top, at 53-50.

Sunset took the lead on a fast break bucket by Jeff Bieber and a jumper by Mikey Fey.

But David Reese got an assist from Bankofier for a layup with 1:06 remaining, and it was all tied up at 55-55.

Fey hit two free throws with 40 seconds left to put Sunset up 57-55.

The Apollos then regained the ball when they got a jump ball with 23 seconds left.

Bieber hit two more charity tosses to up the gap to 59-55.

But a Cavalier bricked two free throws with eight seconds left, and the Apollos hung on for the 60-55 win.

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