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The Tigers never trailed in the game and led by as many as 18 before the Pioneers rallied in the fourth quarter to make it interesting

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Tigard's Malik Brown (12) pushed the ball up the floor under pressure from Oregon City's Andre Best during the second half of Wednesday's Three Rivers League boys basketball game.The Oregon City Pioneers had few answers for Tigard's Drew Carter — not to mention almost everything else the Tigers threw at them Wednesday night.

Carter scored 22 of his game-high 33 points in the second half, pacing the Tigers to a 66-62 victory over the Pioneers to close out the first half Three Rivers League play at Oregon City High School.

Tigard's Malik Brown also scored in double figures with 12 points for the Tigers (12-6, 2-4 Three Rivers), who never trailed in the game and led by as many as 18 points before the Pioneers mounted a comeback that made the final score at least look respectable.

"We played well for most of the game, but we did not show much poise down the stretch," Tigers coach Shawn Alderman said. "That's something that this young team has got to be better at.

"When you have a 10- to 12- point lead, you want to at least keep it there and not let another team climb back in the game. But we did that with turnovers and we did that by taking hard shots."

Oregon City crept within 60-56 when Dalton Welch made one of two free throws with 56 seconds left, but that was as close as the Pioneers (10-8, 1-5) could get after trailing 50-36 going into the fourth quarter.

"I just can't quite put my finger on what's happening," Pioneers coach Aaron Newkirk said. "We're just not playing well well at the right time and just have not been very opportunistic."

The Pioneers also struggled to contain Carter, the 6-foot-3 junior, who knocked down two of Tigard's five 3-pointers in the first quarter as the Tigers raced out to a 22-10 lead.

"A big key for us this game was to come out firing and keep up the intensity early," Carter said. "I think that's one of our strong suits, especially if we can get up early and expand the lead as the game goes on."

Finishing touch

Tigard had a 36-26 halftime lead and then opened the second half on a 14-6 run that ended with Carter 3-pointer that gave the Tigers their largest lead, 50-32, with 3:02 left in the third quarter.

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Tigard's Drew Carter (5) shoots over Oregon City's Jake Gettel (left) and Lucas Hanson during Wednesday's first half."Drew Carter, you've got to give him credit, he's such a good player," Newkirk said. "He creates his own shot. He doesn't need anybody to screen for him or anything. He just elevates over you and that's tough."

Carter scored three of Tigard's first four baskets of the fourth quarter, including a lay-up in traffic that made it 58-48 with 3:37 remaining.

The Pioneers then made one final push, with T.J. Warren making one of two free throws, Welch scoring off an offensive rebound, and Warren adding another basket to cut Tigard's lead to 58-53 with 1:32 left.

Carter countered with two free throws for the Tigers, Andre Best came back with a basket for Oregon City, and then Welch went to the free-throw line where he made one of two to make it 60-56 with 56 seconds to play.

At that point, Oregon City was forced to foul and the Tigers responded by going 6 for 6 at the stripe — four by Carter and two by Steven Long — offsetting the two desperation 3-pointers the Pioneers knocked down late.

"We all had a blast," Carter said. "I think we really wanted to win this game. This is a good momentum-builder. Oregon City was tough. They never gave up. They played hard and, fortunately, we came out with the win."

Jake Gettel led Oregon City with 21 points, Welch had 17, and Best added 11 for the Pioneers, who lost their second consecutive home game.

"Once Tigard got up double-digits in the second half, they did give us some breaks," Newkirk said. "I mean, they were throwing the ball all over the place, but there just wasn't enough time."

And what about Carter's game-high 33 points?

"You expect him to score — his average is about 24 — so if you keep him around 20, that's good," Newkirk said. "But 33 points … they finished with 66, so he scored half of their points.

"We know he's capable of that, but it's easier said than done when it comes to stopping him."

Oregon City can take some solace in its No. 21 power ranking, which is strong enough to guarantee the Pioneers a spot in the OSAA Class 6A's 36-team playoff field.

At the same time, the Pioneers have work to do with six games remaining in the regular season.

"I knew this league was going to be tough, but I wouldn't have thought we would be 1-5 with the way we'd been playing," Newkirk said. "The silver lining is we played the most away games in the first half, and now we have four at home and two away.

"We do have probably the best teams in our league at home, so that's good, but we have not played very well at home, which is still a mystery. You hope in the long run that will change, but … yeah, I'm just a little bit baffled by it all."

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