North Clackamas Christian School's Braden Young led all scorers with 14 points, leading the Saints of Oregon City to a 43-27 victory over Open Door Christian Academy in the third-place game at Saturday's Valley 10 League boys basketball tournament at Multnomah University.
Caleb Matias finished with 10 points and Jeremy Horn chipped in another seven points off the North Clackamas bench to help send the Saints (21-5) into Wednesday's opening round of the OSAA 1A state playoffs against Perrydale (19-6).
Young, one of two seniors on the North Clackamas roster, is thankful that the Saints have at least one more game to play.
"At the beginning of the season, the playoffs seem so far away, and then you get here and it's almost over, which is really weird," Young said. "It's nice to have a little bit more left."
Open Door started the game running a four corners offense, taking four minutes off the clock on the game's opening possession before Isaac Van Vleet launched a 3-pointer from the right corner that missed the mark.
NCC got the rebound and Matias scored on a transition lay-up, touching off a 19-0 run that ended with Horn scoring on another lay-up with five minutes to play in the second quarter.
"It's always difficult when a team comes out with an interesting strategy as Open Door did," Saints coach Grant Nelson said. "It didn't surprise me. I've been around long enough to see it all.
"I thought this game was a coin flip, honestly, so it didn't hurt my feelings when I saw that because I thought a shorter game would not the end of the world. Then we got a couple of easy baskets early and we just kept it going."
What was Huskies coach Michael Tompkins hoping to accomplish with the four corners?
"I'm sure from everyone else's perspective, it looked as if we were scared of them and we were just trying to milk the clock," Tompkins said. "I was trying to get them out of their zone defense and switch to a man-to-man, but they showed extreme patience and … it didn't work out very well."
The half ended with North Clackamas leading 19-6 after the Saints shot 44.4 percent (8 for 18) from the field with three 3-pointers and the Huskies shot 21.4 percent (3 for 14) with seven misses from long range.
After the teams traded baskets in a low-scoring third quarter, NCC opened the fourth quarter on a 9-2 run that ended with Minne knocking down two free throws to give the Saints their largest lead, 37-14, with 3:45 remaining.
The Huskies (16-8) finally got some 3-pointers to drop in the final 3:30 and closed the game on a 13-6 run that helped make the final score look somewhat respectable.
"The goal was to not let North Clackamas score more than 40 in the game and they ended up with 42," Tompkins said. "We just couldn't buy a basket until about three minutes to go and then we finally started hitting some 3s.
"Seven of our eight losses were to the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 7 ranked teams that happened to be in our own league, so this was a building block. We lose our point guard and that's it, so this gives them something to work for."
The Saints lost road games in the opening round of the Class 1A state playoffs each of the past three seasons, including a 57-48 loss at Perrydale in 2018.
Nelson said this team might have what it takes to win in the playoffs for the first time since 2008 when the Travis Spurgeon-led Saints reached the state quarterfinals.
"You look at us and we don't have any superstars, we're not big, and we're not that physical," he said. "So, I guess to have 21 wins at this point in the season says a lot about people buying into a team mentality and doing their little piece even if it might not be all that exciting.
"I'm excited we're still playing. I think Perrydale could be a fairly decent match-up for us. Why not keep going?"
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