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Buckaroos enter Christmas break with winning record for just the second time since 2010

The St. Paul boys basketball team went 1-2 last week, dropping their league opener against the Kennedy Trojans on Dec. 19 before splitting a pair of games to Lost River and Monroe in the Buckaroos' home tournament on Thursday and Friday.PHIL HAWKINS - WOODBURN INDEPENDENT - Justin Herberger drives to the basket in the Bucks' loss to Kennedy on Dec. 19 at home.

The Bucks (6-4, 0-1 Tri-River) were looking to open their conference schedule with a win for the first time since joining the Tri-River Conference, but had a tough draw going up against the No. 4 Trojans (5-5, 0-1).

Kennedy was coming off a one-point win over 3A No. 6 Santiam Christian and had held its own against a non-conference schedule of 3A and 4A teams that belied its .500 record heading into the contest.

And while the Bucks stayed within striking distance through the first half of the game — heading into the lockers at halftime down 29-19 — the Trojans capitalized on 19 St. Paul turnovers and used a 20-3 run in the third quarter to blow things open and cruise to a 53-35 victory.

The Bucks were led by Jaidyn Jackson's 12 points off of five-of-eight shooting, but no other player on the team hit double figures in scoring. The team struggled to connect from the field, shooting 36 percent for the game, including just 1-of-10 shots in the third quarter.

Sophomore post Alex Dela Cerda had a solid game coming off the bench to lead the team in rebounds (10) and blocks (two) while scoring six points of his own.

St. Paul fared much better two nights later, coming on strong against the Lost River Raiders (4-5) in the first round of the St. Paul Tournament. The Bucks built a 10-point lead in the first quarter and held on throughout the contest to claim a 66-58 win Thursday.

It was a game of second opportunities, as the two teams combined for 34 offensive rebounds, but the Bucks won with a stingy defense that held the Raiders to 27 percent shooting from the field and forced 21 turnovers.

St. Paul led 16-6 through the first eight minutes of play and went into halftime up 34-25. They effectively put the game out of reach in the third quarter, outscoring the Raiders 18-8 to build a 52-33 lead heading into the fourth.

Senior Campbell Smith had one of his best games of the season in the win, going 8-of-11 from the field to lead all scorers with 23 points to go along with 13 rebounds. Dela Cerda again had another big game off the bench, coming in to grab nine boards and block four shots.

Jackson was second on the team with 14 points, and Holden Smith had a solid all-around game with 10 points, seven assists and four rebounds.

The Bucks wrapped up the tournament with an 81-58 loss to the No. 7 Monroe Dragons (5-3) on Friday, heading into the Christmas break with just one game left in 2017. St. Paul travels to former 1A rival Perrydale (9-1, 2-0 Casco) on Friday before dipping back into the Tri-River Conference in 2018 with a road tilt at Central Linn (1-7) on Jan. 2.

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