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Ben Gregg finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists to lead the Cavaliers in Friday's Mt. Hood Conference opener at Clackamas

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Clackamas' Ben Gregg (12) extends to defense beyond the 3-point line, putting pressure on Sandy's Tanner Brewster (5) during the first half of Friday's Mt. Hood Conference opener.Clackamas High School's boys basketball relied on an opportunistic defense to generate some easy offense against the visiting Sandy Pioneers on Friday night.

The Cavaliers made it look almost too easy in some instances.

Clackamas' Ben Gregg filled the scorebook with a team-high 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and four steals, pacing the Cavaliers to a 71-58 victory in the Mt. Hood Conference opener for both teams.

Ryan Lewis added 15 points, four rebounds, and four steals, and Damon Erickson chipped in another 13 points for the Cavaliers (7-3, 1-0 Mt. Hood), who used a 14-7 run at the end of the second quarter to take a 45-32 halftime lead.

"I've said it before, but any win in this league is a good win," Cavaliers coach Cameron Mitchell said. "There are very few off nights in the Mt. Hood, so to come out the first night and get a win is huge. It helps set the tone for the rest of the season."

Sandy's Pierce Roeder led all scorers with 29 points, and Kaleb Hubbard added 16 points in his first action after a bout with the flu as the Pioneers (7-5, 0-1) lost their second in a row.

The Pioneers also played without starting point guard Colby Carson, another flu victim, but the bigger issue had to do with turnovers — nine in the first quarter alone — that turned Friday's road game into one, long uphill battle.

"We knew coming over here it would be a tall task," Sandy coach Jason Maki said. "We thought we were up to the challenge, and in a lot of ways we were, but we needed to clean up a couple of things and we just couldn't do that tonight.

"I thought the difference in the game was some of our turnovers because Clackamas got some easy baskets. When we made them play in the half court, they struggled to score against us. But every time they got out in transition and had a chance to run, that was really difficult for us to defend."

The first key turning point in the game in the final three minutes of the first quarter when the Cavaliers capitalized on five Sandy turnovers and went on a 13-0 run that turned a four-point deficit into a 21-12 lead.

Roeder converted two free throws to lift the Pioneers within six points, 31-25, but Clackamas responded with a 14-7 run that started with a Gregg 3-pointer and ended with another Gregg trey that put the Cavaliers in front 45-32 at the break.

In the second half, Sandy continued to sit back in a zone defense while Clackamas was content to work the ball around the perimeter and milk the clock with a double-digit lead.

"If they were going to give us that, why be in a rush?" Mitchell said. "When you're up 13 or 14 and you can hold the ball for a minute, there's no need to rush."

Even after Clackamas' Jackson Jaha buried a 3-pointer from the left corner to extend the lead to 57-43 with 6:10 to play in the fourth quarter, the Pioneers stuck with their zone, not looking to force the issue.

"The game wasn't out of reach," Maki said. "We definitely were weighing a switch defensively, but if we had went to a man-to-man defense, we were going to struggle trying to guard Ben Gregg."

Roeder scored on a transition lay-up and then stole the ball and knocked down a 3-pointer that made it 57-48 with 5:14 to play, but Clackamas countered with an 8-2 run that helped put the game out of reach.

"We definitely played really hard," Cavaliers point guard K.J. Horsley said. "We went on some good runs and we didn't panic when Sandy went on some runs, so it was a good, all-around effort.

"We definitely wanted to stop No. 10 (Roeder) and we wanted to keep an edge on defense and just play hard. We knew that offense would come regardless of how we were playing. If we just ran our usual stuff, we knew we'd get a win."

The Cavaliers also drew inspiration from an enthusiastic student section that may have rattled Sandy when the game started to slip away in the first half.

"We were rushing too much of our stuff, the fans got into some of my our heads, and we just lost it," said Roeder, who scored 21 of his game-high 29 points in the first half. "We weren't ready, but we'll be ready next time."

Added Maki: "I thought we battle our butts off and we gave it a good run. We needed a couple of fewer mistakes, but it's a long Mt. Hood season and our league is really good, so we've just got to be ready to go next game."

Both teams are scheduled to return to league action on Tuesday, with Sandy playing host to David Douglas, while Clackamas goes on the road to face Centennial.

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