Cavaliers coach Cameron Mitchell went into Friday's season opener without five players who had a football game the next day

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Clackamas coach Cameron Mitchell talks strategy during a timeout in Friday's boys' basketball season opener against Jesuit.Playing shorthanded on the eve of the state championship football game, Clackamas' boys' basketball team had enough firepower to stay close to Jesuit for most of three quarters Friday night.

Then reality struck.

Jesuit's Matthew Lang and Joe Wall scored a game-high 19 points each and the Crusaders knocked down 10 three-pointers, taking a 57-42 road win in the season opener for both teams at Clackamas High School.

Ryan McDonald finished with 14 points, and David Aspidov added 11 for Clackamas in an inauspicious debut for Cavaliers' head coach Cameron Mitchell.

Clackamas was missing five players -- Chad Bletko, Russell Gray, Richard Kennewell, Mitchell Modjeski and Cole Turner -- who were preparing for Saturday's OSAA Class 6A football title game against South Medford.

That left the Cavaliers undermanned and undersized in their match-up with the Crusaders, whose starting five stood 6-foot-6, 6-6, 6-5, 6-3 and 6-0.

"I came into the game and I said, 'I need two things from you guys -- attitude and effort,'" Mitchell said. "I thought our attitude was awesome. It was always about the next play, always staying positive. And then I think our effort defensively was great.

"Obviously, we're shorthanded, but we didn't use that as an excuse. We still expected and wanted to win that game, and I'm just excited for getting the rest of the guys together and seeing where this team goes."

Tied at 14-14 early in the second quarter, Jesuit used three-pointers from Justin Bieker, Alex Wan and Aiden Williams to key a 14-8 run to close the half and take a 28-22 lead.

McDonald, Clackamas senior point guard, converted a three-point play to cut Jesuit's lead to 30-29 with 4:26 to play in the third quarter, but the Crusaders answered with a 16-4 run that helped put the game out of reach with six minutes to play.

"Yeah, I'm a little disappointed that we didn't shoot that well and we could have done a few things better," Mitchell said. "I think we were the best versions of ourselves tonight with what we had, and I can't hang my head at that."

The Cavaliers are expected to be close to full strength for Frida's 7:15 p.m. game against Grant at Marshall High School in Southeast Portland.

"Offensively, we'll probably change some things around a little bit once I see everybody and see what I'm cookin' with," Mitchell said. "I focus on two things – defense and rebounding.

"I think a lot of coaches over-coach offense. I'm just teaching them how to play basketball. We're teaching them how to move without the ball, how to cut when the ball is in the post, and what to do in different situations, while letting them have some freedom on offense.

"I don't think it's necessarily fun for them or beneficial if we're calling a play every time down. I tell them, 'If we play defense and we rebound like we can, then I'm going to give you some freedom on offense. Just don't turn it over.'"

A former standout at Grant High School who played college ball at Willamette University in Salem, Mitchell inherited a team that went undefeated in Mt. Hood Conference play for the second season in a row before advancing to last season's Class 6A championship final against Jefferson.

"Our expectations are to win league and we want to be in the final eight at the Chiles Center," Mitchell said. "Obviously, Clackamas is one of the top athletic programs in the state and has a great future, and that's something I want to be a part of.

"As far as pressure … I don't feel a lot of pressure. We as coaches are doing everything in our power to be the best versions of ourselves in practice, which is something we talk about with the kids, and I think if we do that, the results will come."

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