North Clackamas Christian School's boys basketball team woke up in the nick of time Thursday.
Hadden Stark scored the go-ahead basket with 3:53 to play and North Clackamas held on in crunch time to defeat Country Christian 32-30 in the opening round of the Valley 10 League tournament at Multnomah University.
Braden Young scored seven of his team-high 13 points in the second half and Luke Nelson added 12 points to help send the Saints (20-5) into Saturday's third-place game against Open Door Christian Academy.
The winner of Saturday's earns the Valley 10's third and final berth into the OSAA Class 1A playoffs.
After Nelson converted one of two free throws to give North Clackamas a 45-43 lead with 12 seconds remaining, Country Christian called a timeout out to set up a final shot for Mark Grandle, whose 3-pointer from the top of the arc missed the mark as time expired.
My guys battled and we found just enough to get it done," Saints coach Grant Nelson said. "One of the things I always write on the board for postseason games is: 'It's a 32-minute game.'
"Sometimes you come out cruddy and sometimes you come out great, but you've got to play the whole time, and I was just excited that my guys did."
Country Christian jumped out to a 13-6 lead in the first quarter and then pushed the lead to 18-8 when Dominic Doyle knocked an elbow jumper with 2:28 to play in the second quarter.
North Clackamas closed the half on a 7-2 run to pull within 20-15 at the break, but then the Saints went into a bit of lull, coming away empty on four of their first six possessions of the second half.
After Country Christian's Cooper Halverson converted one of two free throws to extend the lead to 26-20 with 4:02 remaining in the third quarter, Grant Nelson called a timeout and lit into his players.
"I wanted more possessions," he said. "It was something we talked about at halftime. Our pace bringing the ball up the floor was too slow. If you start a game like that, OK. But if you're down by six at that stage of the game, I was as many possessions and I can get to try to at least give ourselves a chance.
"I got on them a little harder than I've gotten on them all season, and they responded."
Luke Nelson knocked down a left-corner 3-pointer to cap a 10-6 run that pulled North Clackamas within 32-30 before the end of the third quarter, and then Caleb Matias connected on a right-corner triple that gave the Saints a 37-33 lead with 5:17 to play in the fourth.
Halverson answered for Country Christian with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc, and Jason Bafford scored from under the basket to put the Saints back on top, 38-37, with 4:15 left.
North Clackamas regained the lead when Start, the senior post, followed up his own miss and scored to make it 39-38. Jeremy Horn added a transition lay-up off a Cougars' turnover, and Luke Nelson connected again from long distance, pushing the lead to 44-41 with 2:28 to play.
"We had a couple of open looks on corner 3s just because we were pushing the ball up the floor," Grant Nelson said. "And, obviously, it didn't make a huge difference, but I think that was the biggest thing that made enough of a difference that we scored some transition baskets to kind of get us over the top."
Halverson finished with 13 points and six rebounds, Christian Griffith added seven points and three assists, and Grandle had six points and seven rebounds for the Cougars (9-17).
COUNTRY CHRISTIAN 13 7 12 11 — 43
NORTH CLACKAMAS 6 9 15 15 — 45
Country Christian (43) — Cooper Halverson 13, Griffith 7, Grandle 6, Bafford 6, Lambert 6, Doyle 5, Syphard.
North Clackamas Christian (45) — Braden Young 13, Nelson 12, Minne 7, Matias 5, Horn 4, Stark 4, Meuser.
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