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The Pioneers had the lead midway through the fourth quarter, but went scoreless in the final 3:30 as the Rams closed Thursday's game on an 8-0 run

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Oregon City's Dalton Welch pushes the ball toward the basket in the first half of Thursday's OSAA Class 6A boys' basketball consaltion game against Central Catholic at the Chiles Center.Oregon City put up a solid fight Thursday morning, but it wasn't quite enough to keep the Pioneers' season alive.

Central Catholic's SataieVior Ayilola and Darius Gakwasi scored 14 points each, leading the Rams to a 49-43 come-from-behind win over the Pioneers in Thursday's consolation semifinals of the OSAA Class 6A boys' basketball tournament at the Chiles Center.

Andre Best led Oregon City with 13 points and Erich Nova added eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds as the Pioneers finished the season with a 19-8 record.

"Our players were incredible all year," Pioneers coach Aaron Newkirk said. "Nobody wants the season to end.

"The disappointment in the loss is not the loss itself. It's that you've reached the finish line and then it's over for that group, and that's hard because these kids love each other so much."

It was a heckuva ride for an Oregon City team that tied for second in the Three Rivers league and then opened the playoffs with wins over Gresham and South Eugene to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in nine seasons.

After getting blown out 69-30 by top-seeded Lake Oswego in Wednesday's quarterfinals, the Pioneers turned around less than 18 hours later, looking for redemption in Thursday's elimination game against Central Catholic.

Last gasp

Oregon City played with the same tenacity that had served them well against Gresham and South Eugene as the Pioneers matched the Rams blow for blow in a game that featured six ties and 10 lead changes.

Trailing 35-32 after three quarters, the Pioneers went on an 11-6 run to open the fourth, taking a 43-41 lead when Corban Remsburg soared high and tipped in a Nova near-miss with 3:48 remaining in the game.

The Pioneers then came up empty on their final six possessions of the game as the Rams closed on an 8-0, taking the lead for good on an Amato lay-up with 3:02 left.

"We didn't want to lose," Remsburg said. "We came in ready to play hard, but the game just didn't go our way. It's not what we wanted, but Central Catholic played a good game."

Said Nova: "I didn't think it would end right there, but it did. We played our hearts out. After Wednesday's loss to Lake Oswego, we had to come back today and play hard, and we did. I think we did pretty well today.

"Throughout the season, we learned from our mistakes and kept getting stronger and strong. Being here, for me, it means a lot. I thought we could have gone a little farther, but just player here was a great experience."

The Pioneers were still in a position pull even with Central Catholic in the final two minutes, but Remsburg twice missed potential game-tying 3-pointers from the top of the arc, the second with 37 seconds left.

"Any shot that I can get that I'm on balance and ready to shoot, I'm going to shoot it," Remsburg said. "I was confident they were going in, but they just didn't fall."

Said Newkirk: "Those were called plays for Corban, both those 3s. The one was a check-the-wind, wide-open 3 and you can't ask for a better shot than that.

"I mean, yeah, we had our chances and you live with that as long as you get everything you can, and I think today our kids did everything they could."

Parting shots

Dalton Welch had eight points off the bench for the Pioneers and Remsburg, one of five Oregon City seniors, finished with seven points, four rebounds and one assist.

"That game today was great because we ended the way we wanted to end -- playing the way we've played all year," Newkirk said. "The kids were upset about Wednesday's loss. They just didn't have it and part of that was because of Lake Oswego, of course, but we just didn't have our edge.

"Today, we got it back and there was no loser on the court today, as far as we're concerned."

Oregon City finished above .500 for the sixth consecutive season under Newkirk and the Pioneers' 19 wins were the most since the 2009-10 team -- the last one to reach the quarterfinals -- finished 20-7.

"Every year we've made progress," Newkirk said. "It means a lot to the players to be better than they were the year before, and every year it's gotten easier because of the relationships that the kids have and how much they care about each other. You see that on the court, you see that in the effort, and you see that in the practices every day.

"I think we'll be in the mix again next season. You have to travel a long road to get to the Chiles Center. You've got to grind it out every day and get better, and if the kids will do next year what these kids did this year, I wouldn't put it past them to be standing here again a year from now."

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