Ben Gregg scores 30 in Clackamas debut, leads Cavaliers to home win
Clackamas junior forward Ben Gregg needed a few minutes to get warmed up in Saturday's season opener.
One quarter was enough to knock off the rust.
Gregg broke loose for 20 of his game-high 30 points in the second quarter, sending the Cavaliers to a 67-42 rout Saturday over the South Eugene Axe at Clackamas High School.
Junior forward Ryan Lewis added 13 points and junior point guard K.J. Horsley anchored an aggressive Clackamas defense that helped carry the Cavaliers to a 37-15 halftime lead.
But all eyes were on Gregg, the highly-touted, 6-foot-9 junior who was making his Cavaliers' debut after two seasons at 2A Columbia Christian.
After scoring only three points in the first quarter, Gregg erupted in the second, going 7 for 8 from the field with four 3-pointers and a pair of free throws as Clackamas closed the half on a 22-5 run and broke the game open.
"The first quarter was tough," Gregg said. "There were a few jitters. My first game here and I was really excited to play, but I was maybe a little too excited.
"Then I calmed down a little bit in the second quarter and started playing my game."
Gregg actually switched up his game. Instead of attacking the rim where almost everything was contested, he moved outside and knocked down four 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the second quarter.
His first trey gave Clackamas a 20-10 lead. The second one pushed the lead to 23-10. The third one made it 27-10, and the fourth one made it 30-12 with 5:08 to play in the first half.
"He not only stepped outside, but he stepped 10 feet behind the line outside," South Eugene coach Dave Hancock said. "His first 3 was like probably 35 feet and then he hits another on the other side. It was like, 'Well, yeah, that's where his range is.' And he does it with ease."
Gregg's outside game not only helped open up things for him inside, but it also opened up some things for a few of his teammates Damon Erickson, K.J. Horsley, and Lewis.
"It just shows Ben's versatility," Clackamas coach Cameron Mitchell said. "Usually, he's going to finish those around the basket, but for whatever reason, he wasn't, so he knew that he could go to another aspect of his game to get points."
The Cavaliers piled on in the second half, opening the second half on a 15-2 run that ended with Gregg knocking down another 3-pointer — his sixth of the game — to push the lead to 52-17 with 4:05 to play in the third quarter.
After Lewis hit free throws to make it 62-30 with 6:41 to play in the fourth quarter, Gregg took a seat on the bench with his 30 points on 9-for-20 shooting from the field, including 6-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc. He also went 6 for 8 at the free-throw line.
"Yeah, he's pretty good," Hancock said of Gregg. "Last summer, we'd seen the big kids from this area and I first thought the kid from Battle Ground (Kaden Perry) was the best I'd seen, but this kid is much better because he can shoot the ball so much better.
"As well as Gregg played, I thought they just defensively shut us down where we didn't have anything at all. Now, we have all the excuses we want — we played last night, we're tired, and blah, blah, blah. But in this day and age, when you have tournaments and you play back-to-back anyway, our kids have got to learn from this, and I think they will."
Gregg was a force on defense, but many of the defensive stops that Clackamas got started with Horsley, the 6-1 junior who took over as the Cavaliers' starting point guard position when two-year starter Artur Gravilovich transferred to Madison High School for his senior year.
Horsley basically made life miserable for South Eugene's Sam Harris, holding the Axe's senior point guard to 12 points after he'd scored 32 in Friday's 81-73 home win over Willamette.
"K.J. is one of the most mentally tough kids I've ever coached," Mitchell said. "We trapped Harris and that was great, too, but the way K.J. consistently did all the right things defensively and got into Harris defensively was just amazing.
"We know it's not just about Ben, and he knows that, too. We're stronger together and we showed that tonight. We have a lot of really talented players and if we play together, we're going to be a good team."
Said Gregg: "It was a slow start for us, but it's always nice to end up with a big win like that."
The Cavaliers are back in action Friday when they face Bend (0-3) in the opening round of the Mountainside Tournament at Mountainside High School in Beaverton.
SOUTH SALEM 56, OREGON CITY 51 (OT): South Salem's Nick Zuro led all scorers with 22 points and Cole Hardy added 10 points for the Saxons, who outscored the visiting Pioneers 9-4 in overtime on Friday and improved to 3-0.
Oregon City's Andre Best scored a team-high 14 points and Dalton Welch also finished in double figures with 12 points for the Pioneers (1-2), who closed the fourth quarter on a 13-8 run to tie the game at 47-47 and force overtime.
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