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A.J. Hotchkins leads Tigard's late-game charge in victory

by: DAN BROOD - INTENSITY -- Tualatin junior Alexander Reid (25) and Tigard senior Bryan Berg battle for the ball during Friday's game. Tigard pulled away late in the game to get a 61-54 victory. TUALATIN — Both teams really wanted the win.

Both teams seemingly were playing as hard as they could.

Both teams were making clutch play after clutch play.

It may have all come down to determination.

And, wow, was A.J. Hotchkins ever determined.

Hotchkins, a Tigard High School senior, had a hand in 12 points in the final 2 minutes and 4 seconds of the contest to help the Tigers pull away from rival Tualatin to get a 61-54 victory in a Pacific Conference game played Friday in front of a large, loud crowd at Tualatin High School.

“He’s strong,” Tigard senior Jett Even said of Hotchkins. “He’s a physical force out there.”

“Yeah, I was determined,” said Hotchkins, who was a star fullback and linebacker for the Tigard football team that reached the semifinal round of the Class 6A state playoffs. “I was getting some shots and made some free throws. It was a close game, but we fought through it.”by: DAN BROOD - UP FOR GRABS -- Tigard senior Niko Niblack (20) and Tualatin senior Brandon Shroyer battle for a rebound in Friday's game.

With the victory, Tigard, the defending Pacific Conference champion, improved to 3-0 in conference play at that point (7-5 overall), putting the Tigers in a tie with Forest Grove and Century for first place in the league standings.

“It’s pretty big,” Even said. “We can play better than we did tonight. But we can build on this.”

Tualatin moved to 1-2 in conference games (5-8 overall) to that point with the hard-fought setback.

“It’s always a good game when we play Tigard,” said Tualatin junior wing Jacob Bennett, who led all scorers with 21 points. “I wish we could have won. We put ourselves in a good position, but we couldn’t close.”

In Friday’s game, Tigard took a 43-33 lead into the fourth quarter. But the Wolves came fighting back in a hurray.

Tualatin junior Alexander Reid scored on a drive to the basket and Bennett and Timberwolf senior Taylor Boos followed with back-to-back three-point baskets to trim the Tiger lead to 45-43 with 5 minutes and 55 seconds left to play in the contest.

Tualatin then tied the game, at 45-45, when senior guard Joey Fishback went 2 for 2 from the free throw line with 5:16 left to play.

Tigard regained the lead, at 48-45, when senior guard Bryan Berg converted a three-point play with 3:31 remaining. Tualatin quickly cut the lead to one, at 48-47, when sophomore Danté Reid scored on a drive to the hoop with 3:21 left to play.

But that’s when Tigard, and Hotchkins, took over.

After killing more than a minute off the clock, the Tigers upped their lead to 50-47 when Hotchkins scored on a drive with 2:04 remaining to play.

After Tualatin got a pair of free throws by sophomore Luke Osborn to cut the lead back to one, Hotchkins fed Tiger junior post Joel Johnson with a no-look, backhand pass. Johnson scored on a layup and was fouled on the play. He converted the three-point play to give Tigard a 53-49 lead with 1:15 left to play.

Fishback and Hotchkins then traded free throws. Hotchkins followed that up with a steal and layup to up the margin to 56-50 with 37 seconds remaining.

by: DAN BROOD - BIG NIGHT -- Tualatin junior Jacob Bennett scored a game-high 21 points in Friday's game.But the Wolves didn’t give up. Bennett sank his fourth three-pointer of the game, coming on a shot from the left corner with Even up in his face, to make the score 56-53 with 24 seconds left.

Hotchkins was fouled with 18.2 seconds to play. He sank both ensuing free throws, in the one-and-one bonus situation, to up the lead to 58-53.

Another free throw by Fishback made the score 58-54. Even was fouled with 11.2 seconds remaining. He made his first free throw and missed the second, but Hotchkins was there to grab the rebound and put in his follow-up shot to wrap up Tigard’s 61-54 victory.

“This was a good win,” Hotchkins said. “It felt good. They played really hard. It was a fun game.”

“We did the things we needed to do,” Even said. “We made some big shots and made our free throws.”

The teams played evenly in the first quarter of the game, with Tigard taking a 13-11 lead at the end of the first quarter on a jump shot by senior Elijah Simon.

Bennett scored eight points in the second quarter, sinking a pair of three-pointers in the process. But, Tigard, getting a spark off the bench from Even, was able to keep pace.by: DAN BROOD - JUMPER -- Tigard senior Jett Even goes up for a jump shot in Friday's contest.

Even, sinking a three-pointer of his own scored seven points in the period, which ended with the teams tied at 27-27.

“We all try to work together,” Even said. “I was just trying to help my team.”

Tigard turned up the defensive pressure in the third quarter, holding the Wolves to six points while forcing seven turnovers in the period.

Meanwhile, Tigard senior Nick Kaelin sank a pair of three-pointers in the period. Berg also connected on a three-pointer in the period, helping Tigard open up the 10-points lead and set up the fourth-quarter dramatics.

“It was a fun game and a good win,” Even said. “Now, we just need to keep getting better.”

Hotchkins led a balanced Tigard scoring attack in the win with 13 points. He also had five rebounds and four assists.

Berg added 12 points. Even had 10 points of the bench. Johnson had nine points and four rebounds and Simon scored eight.

Tigard, as a team, made 23 of 50 shots from the field.

Bennett scored his game-high 21 points on an 8-for-12 shooting night from the field with four three-pointers. He also pulled down six rebounds.

“Tigard is our rival, and we had no letdown,” Bennett said. “We knew we’d have to use everything that we had.”

Fishback added nine point for the Wolves, Osborn had eight and Boos scored six.

Tualatin made 18 of 37 shots from the field.

by: DAN BROOD - LOOKING INSIDE -- Tigard senior A.J. Hotchkins (34) looks to get the ball inside against Tualatin seniors Taylor Boos (40) and Joey Fishback in Friday's game. Tigard got a 61-54 win.Both teams picked up conference wins on Tuesday. Tualatin scored a 59-50 win at Newberg to improve to 2-2 in league play.

Bennett and Danté Reid scored 16 points apiece to lead the way for the Wolves in that game. Alexander Reid added 10 points.

Tigard posted a 72-53 victory at home against McMinnville on Tuesday to improve to 4-0 in conference games.

Berg led the Tigers with 22 points in that contest. Simon and Johnson added 14 points apiece and Hotchkins scored 11.

Both squads will be back in action on Friday. Tigard will be home to face Century and Tualatin will travel to Hillsboro for 7:15 p.m conference games.

On Tuesday, Tualatin will play at Century at 6:45 p.m. and Tigard will host Hillsboro at 7:15 p.m.

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