The Saints of Oregon City squandered a six-point lead with 5:25 to play in the third quarter of Tuesday's Valley 10 League game

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - North Clackamas Christian's Ethan Kassebaum drives against Damascus Christian's Jonathon Shields during the first half of Tuesday's Valley 10 League boys' basketball game.North Clackamas Christian School's boys' basketball team has a habit of going ice cold offensively when the Saints least expect it.

It happened again on Tuesday night when the Saints went into a funk midway through the third quarter and never snapped out of it, dropping a 42-35 decision at home to Valley 10 League-leading Damascus Christian.

Damascus Christian's Ryan Patrick scored 10 of his game-high 18 points in the third quarter for the Eagles (15-2, 11-0 Valley 10), who rallied from a six-point deficit early in the second half to complete a two-game, regular-season series sweep of the Saints (13-4, 8-2).

Jason Budey added seven points despite some early foul trouble and David Zakharyuk scored six off the bench as the Eagles ran their current win streak to 14 games, while extending their regular-season league win streak to 47 games over four seasons.

"It was a battle," Damascus Christian coach Brad Patrick said. "North Clackamas came out and did what they needed to do. We struggled a little bit in the first half, but our boys came out in the second half and buckled down."

North Clackamas was in position for an upset when Braden Young got loose inside and scored to give the Saints a 30-24 lead with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter.

But then Damascus switched from a zone defense and started playing man-to-man, sparking a 6-0 run that ended with Ryan Patrick scoring on a driving lay-in to pull the Eagles into a 30-30 tie.

The Saints turned around and Ethan Kassebaum made a nice pass to a cutting Allen Donovan, who scored as he was being fouled and then made the free throw to put NCCS back in front 33-30 with 3:16 remaining in the third quarter.

Then things got ugly for the Saints.

NCCS closed the third quarter with five empty possessions, going 0 for 1 from the field and 0 for 3 at the free-throw line with two turnovers. Ryan Patrick scored the final six points of the quarter for Damascus, including a corner three-pointer that put the Eagles in front 36-33.

The Saints then opened the fourth quarter with nine more empty possessions. One saving grace for NCCS was that Damascus scored only once in the first six minutes of the quarter -- a driving lay-in by Budey that made it 38-33 -- so with two minutes left, it was still anybody's ball game.

Crunch time

Jeremy Drake finally scored for the Saints on a running, left-handed scoop shot to cut Damascus' lead to 38-35 with 1:42 left, but that was as close as NCCS could get down the stretch.

Zakharyuk scored on a reverse lay-in to make it 40-35 with 1:07 to play and then Joey Brandon closed out the scoring with a pair of free throws with 13.2 seconds remaining.

"Give Damascus credit," Saints coach Grant Nelson said. "They're a good team. But this has been an issue with us all year long where we score and then we just completely dry up.

"It's one of those tough things where I look the guys in the eye in the locker rom and I don't know what to say other than, 'Hey, you worked hard, but if you don't make shots, you can't win. That's a big part of the game."

Donovan finished with a team-high nine points, Young had eight points, and Kassebaum added seven points for the Saints, who played their third consecutive game without injured senior point guard Lane Ehigh.

"I was super-happy with my guys' effort," Nelson said. "In terms of what we wanted to do tonight, we did it. I mean, we know Damascus plays with intensity. We wanted to kind of set the bar for intensity tonight, and I thought at times we were definitely doing that. So, from that standpoint, I'm happy with what we did."

Then there was the fourth quarter when the Saints scored on only one of 16 possessions, going 1 for 14 from the field and 0 for 6 at the foul line with five offensive rebounds and three turnovers.

"The guys were playing hard and things were going well on the offensive end, and then they weren't," Nelson said. "Usually in games like this, I think, 'If I had it to do over again, I would have done this.' I don't know that I would have done anything differently. I mean, we missed shots, and I'm not sure what to do about that as a coach."

Damascus solidified its hold on first place in league with five games remaining and has the inside track on securing the automatic berth into the Valley 10 tournament championship final, which will determine seeding for the OSAA Class 1A state playoffs.

"I think that's the first time all season we've been down a halftime," Brad Patrick said. "We were down by one, but that was a first and that's good for these boys to experience that.

"I felt in the first half we were trying to press too much and our shot selection was poor. In the second half, I think it got better when we recognized what we needed to do and a few shots started falling, too."

NCCS, clinging to second place by a game over Grand View Christian, still had six league games remaining, and has an especially grueling stretch coming up with a road game Friday at Southwest Christian, a home game against Grand View on Monday, and a road game at Valor Christian on Tuesday.

"We're not playing at a level that we can overlook anybody," Nelson said. "So, I can't look at the rest of my schedule and say if we had beat Damascus, were going to run the table and play them in the championship game of the league tournament.

"We've just got to stay focused on what's next and hope to figure out our point guard situation and hope to be palying as good of ball as we can dome district tournament time."

DAMASCUS CHRISTIAN 14 8 14 6 -- 42

N. CLACKAMAS CHRISTIAN 11 12 10 2 -- 35

Damascus Christian (42) -- Ryan Patrick 18, Budey 7, Zakharyuk 6, Mai 5, Brandon 2, Shields 2, Mitchell 2.

North Clackamas Christian (34) -- Allan Donovan 9, Young 8, Kassebaum 7, Drake 5, Stapleton 2, Van Lieu 2, Brown 2.

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