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Jailen Hammer scored a game-high 22 points and helped anchor an aggressive defense that carried the Cavs to Friday's home win

PAMPLIN MEDA: JIM BESEDA - Sandy's Pierce Roeder (with ball) is surrounded by Clackamas defenders Jailen Hammer (22), Artur Gravilovich (11), Daniel Mahler (5), and Ryan Lewis (34) during the second half of Friday's game.Sandy High School's boys' basketball team found itself in a hole that was a little too deep to climb out of Friday night.

How did the Pioneers get there?

Some of it was their own doing, but a lot of it had to do with the Clackamas Cavaliers playing one of their best games of the season at both ends of the court.

Clackamas' Jailen Hammer scored 14 of his game-high 22 points in the second half and the Cavaliers rode their pesky defense and some timely outside shooting to an impressive 77-63 home win over the turnover-prone Pioneers in Friday's Mt. Hood Conference opener for both teams at Clackamas High School.

Damon Erickson and Ryan Lewis added 14 points each for the Cavaliers (2-8, 1-0 Mt. Hood), who jumped out to an 11-2 lead at the end of the first quarter and then piled on from there to snap a seven-game losing streak.

"Oh, man, monkey off the back," Clackamas coach Cameron Mitchell said. "That's our best self is when we're flying around, causing a little havoc, deflecting passes, getting Jailen in the open court … I mean, that's when we're going to be our best and we were able to do that early.

PAMPLIN MEDIA: JIM BESEDA - Clackamas' Jailen Hammer powers his way past Sandy's Colby Carson as he drives to the basket in the first half of Friday's Mt. Hood Conference opener at Clackamas."The biggest thing, though, was that when Sandy made some little runs, previously we may have folded, but tonight we stepped up and got big stops and we hit big shots."

Sandy's Kaleb Hubbard came off the bench to score a team-high 20 points and Colton Gorski added 14 points, but most of those came after Clackamas had opened a 30-10 lead with 3:40 to play in the second quarter and it wasn't enough.

It certainly wasn't the start the Pioneers (7-4, 0-1) were hoping for in their return to the Mt. Hood Conference.

"We just didn't play our basketball," said Gorski, the Pioneers' senior wing. "This is the worst game we've played all year, but I'm not too worried as far as the league goes. I mean, we're never going to play this bad again.

"Clackamas had a good defense, but nothing we haven't seen before. That was us just blowing everything. We just were not prepared at all. We weren't moving properly, we weren't running our offense, and it was just a really rough game from the start."

Early momentum

Clackamas didn't exactly light it up to start the game. In 15 first-quarter possessions, the Cavaliers went 5 for 16 from the field and 1 for 4 from the free-throw line with no turnovers, which wasn't great, but it was good enough to keep them three steps ahead of Sandy.

The Pioneers had a nightmarish first quarter, going 1 for 8 from the field with no free throws and 10 turnovers in 16 possessions.

After Hammer stole the ball for Clackamas and fed Daniel Mahler for a lay-up that gave the Cavaliers a 9-0 lead, Sandy coach Jason Maki called timeout with 3:48 to play in the first quarter and pleaded with his team to "Wake up!"

The Pioneers then came out of the timeout and threw the ball away again.

"It didn't feel like us out there," Maki said. "We've been a team that's really been pushing the pack, playing with a ton of energy, and flyin' up and down the court. We looked like we were in mud tonight.

"I don't want to take anything away from Clackamas, because I thought they did a great job with what they do. But we knew they were going to do that. We played some teams in the preseason to get us ready for that type of style. Tonight was different."

Clackamas opened the second quarter with a 19-8 run, taking a 30-10 lead when Hammer came up with the ball off a Sandy turnover, got fouled on the way to the basket, and made both free throws with 3:41 to play in the first half.

"We've seen that we can do stuff like that, but we just hadn't really come together before tonight," Hammer said. "We have a super-young team, so we're just trying to fit the pieces together.

"Honestly, I think a lot of it was our first league game at home, we had a pretty good crowd, and we all just played together and it was fun."

Punch, counterpunch

So was it Clackamas' defensive tenacity that forced all those Sandy turnovers, or was it that the Pioneers were just being careless with the ball?

"I think it was a little bit of both," Hammer said. "We were playing really aggressive defense and we were pressing in the first half, but Sandy was missing a lot of shots, surprisingly.

"On film, those were the same shots that they were hitting, so it was kind of nice to see them missing those."

Sandy used a 13-4 run to cut Clackamas' lead to 34-23 at halftime, creeping close enough to get the Cavaliers' attention.

"In the second half, I just tried to calm everyone down," said Hammer, the Cavs' senior combo guard. "I kept telling them that we needed to keep pushing and not let up. We just needed to keep doing what we were doing."

Each time Sandy threatened in the second half, Clackamas responded with one big shot after another.

When Sandy's Colby Carson made two free throws to pull the Pioneers within 35-28 with 6:42 to play in the third quarter, Hammer drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to make it 38-38.

When Tanner Brewster completed a three-point play for the Pioneers that made it 48-42 with 1:38 left in the third, Jack Dorn buried another trey to make 51-42.

And when Brewster scored the first basket of the fourth quarter to cut Clackamas' lead to 53-47, the Cavaliers answered with a 16-8 run that featured four consecutive 3-pointers by Erickson, the 6-foot-1 sophomore who only recently started swinging up from the JV team.

Erickson's final basket made it 69-55 and all but put the game out of reach with 4:30 to play.

"They hit the shots when they needed to," Maki said. "There were a couple times we flew around, they got a long rebound and kicked it to No. 44 (Erickson) and hit a three, and those are just back-breakers because we had worked so hard for 15-20 seconds and then don't get the rebound and they hit a three."

Team effort

For the game, the Cavaliers knocked down 11 shots from beyond the arc -- Erickson with four, Ryan Lewis two, Dorn two, Hammer two, and Artur Gavrilovich one.

"We continued to play to the same way, even after Sandy switched defenses and went into a zone," Mitchell said. "We had to adjust, which always seems to take us a play or two, but luckily we had guys step up and hit shots and we just kept moving. We kept moving and didn't get stagnant and that was the biggest difference.

"When you're a coach, it's all about wanting the kids to have great experiences. I know it's frustrating losing game after game, and you hate to see it and you feel terrible and you want to figure out how to switch things up. I'm just really happy for our guys more than anything."

Said Hammer: "It's always good to win. I mean, we were 1-8, so it was a good way to start league play."

Was that as good as Clackamas can play?

"Nah, I think we can play better, honestly," Hammer said. "That's just a little sneak peek."

As for Sandy, Gorski said the Pioneers really have nowhere to go but up after Friday.

"Clackamas was 1-8, so we were like, 'Oh, we've got this is the bag,'" Gorski said. "We came out really stagnant and we just weren't playing our game.

"It's super-disappointing, but I feel like we're going to bounce back. I'm not too worried about the league or anything like that. If anything, we needed a loss like this to wake us up."

Sandy hits the road again next week with games Tuesday at David Douglas and Friday at Gresham, while Clackamas travels to games Tuesday at Centennial and Friday at Central Catholic.

"I told the guys in the locker room, 'We have to build off this,'" Mitchell said. "We have to have intense practices and treat every opponent the same, and whether we're playing the top team in the league or the bottom team in the league, we have to come in with the same mentality.

"We had that tonight for the whole game, and that was the difference."

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