The calendar said one thing.
The calendar said that that the Wednesday, Dec. 29, contest between the Clackamas and Benson girls basketball teams was "just" a non-league game in a big holiday tournament.
But everything about the game itself — from the intense, physical play to the top-five matchup to the large, raucous crowd at Franklin High School — said "Class 6A state tournament game."
In the end, the top-ranked Cavaliers — who started four freshman and one junior — lived up to their ranking, beating Benson (the last Class 6A state champion) 52-44 in the second round of the Pacific Office Automation Holiday Classic.
"We weren't used to the pressure, but I think we stayed together and just stayed calm most of the time and it was really fun," said Clackamas freshman guard Avery Peterson, who scored 13 points (on 4 of 6 shooting from the field, including 1 of 3 3-pointers and a 4 of 6 day at the foul line), along with two rebounds and two assists.
"All of us have played against that team many times in club so we knew that they were a super high intensity team," said freshman guard/forward Jazzy Davidson, who led her team with 16 points (on 6 of 8 shooting from the field and a 4 of 9 day at the line), along with nine rebounds four assists and two steals. "They are really high energy, high intensity, so when they were trying to press us and trying to speed us up, we knew we needed to slow down and play how we normally play."
For her part, Clackamas coach Korey Landolt relished the opportunity her young team had to play — and learn — against another one of Oregon's best teams.
"This is the best test. This is the best test and the best mimic (of the state tournament) we could get going into conference play," she said. "We just wanted to get this week's games in no matter who it would be against. We just wanted to compete and get those last couple games in before we go into conference play."
With the victory, the Cavaliers won for the eighth time in a row, remained unbeaten and improved to 8-0 overall. No. 5 Benson, meanwhile, saw its three-game winning streak snapped and fell to 3-2 overall.
The Techsters were led by sophomore forward Mahogany Chandler-Roberts, who scored a game-high 20 points (on 9 of 21 shooting from the field and a 2 of 6 day at the free throw line), along with 11 rebounds, three blocks and four steals. Junior Malaya LeSeur added eight points (on 3 of 12 shooting from the field and a 2 of 4 day at the line) and with one assist.
The Cavaliers started fast and led 7-0 just 1 minute, 51 seconds into the game when freshman Dylan Mogel hit one free throw, but nothing came easy against Benson on Wednesday.
The Techsters answered with a 10-4 run that brought them within 11-10 when junior Onna Brown hit a pair of foul shots with 2:09 left in the opening quarter.
Already up 13-10 at the start of the second period, Clackamas pushed its lead to 19-12 when Mogel buried a pair of free throws with 5:42 remaining in the half.
Undaunted, Benson closed the quarter on an 11-6 run highlighted by Chandler-Roberts' five points (including a three-point play), and three points each from sophomore Maurianna Hashemian-Orr and LeSeur, with LeSeur's pullup in the lane cutting the Cavs' lead to 25-23 at the half.
Clackamas answered with its best stretch of the game at the start of the third quarter, stitching together a 17-4 run that included five points from senior Liv Shackleton and four each from Peterson and Davidson, with Shackleton's "three" from the top of the key boosting her team's lead to 42-27 with 1:06 remaining in the third period.
Still up 44-30 at the start of the fourth quarter, Clackamas got challenged by Benson again down the stretch, with the Techsters closing within 49-43 on LeSeur's stop-and-go drive with 2:00 left to play.
But Mogel scored on a left-handed layin assisted by Davidson with 1:44 left to play and Davidson added one foul shot with 37 seconds to seal their team's win, while Benson managed just one foul shot on its final four possessions.
"Going into games, (you know) the good teams are going to go on runs so … it's just how long they're going to go. I think we did a good job shortening their runs," Peterson said.
"I'm really grateful to play these good teams early on," Davidson said. "We learn a lot. We learn our weak points and what we need to work on going into practice and going into league so we know what to work on. It makes us a better team."
"I think they learned a lot tonight," Landolt added. "They learned a lot about themselves and what they've got to do better and how they've got to push each other in practice."
On Thursday, Dec. 30, the Cavaliers will face No. 2 Beaverton at 8 p.m. at Franklin.
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