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The first-year Hawks keep their state playoff hopes alive with conference win.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Nelson junior post C.J. Borin goes up to score during his team's 69-55 win over Centennial at Centennial High School on Wednesday, Feb. 9.The Nelson boys basketball team is living on the edge.

The Hawks, ranked 32nd with six games left in their inaugural season, have a very real chance to win a Class 6A state playoff berth — and they're determined to do just that.

They took another key step in that direction on Wednesday, Feb. 9, when they beat Centennial 69-55 at Centennial High School.

"I think this team is capable of big things— hopefully playoffs," said junior post C.J. Borin, who tied for game-high scoring honors with 25 points (on 12 of 15 shooting from the field and a 1 of 1 day at the foul line), along with five rebounds, four assists and one steal. "That's definitely a goal of ours."

"We've grown a lot since the start (of the season)," said junior wing Parker Harrison, who finished with 13 points (on 6 of 11 shooting from the field and a 1 of 1 day at the foul line), along with eight assists, four rebounds, three steals and one block. "We've just got to work hard in practice, prepare for every game and give it all we've got and we've got a good shot."

With the win — the team's second in its last three games — Nelson improved to 4-6 in Mt. Hood Conference play and 9-9 overall. Centennial, meanwhile, saw its two-game MHC winning streak snapped and fell to 3-6 in conference play and 5-13 overall.

The Eagles said their inability to handle Nelson's full-court press — the Eagles forced 25 Centennial turnovers — made the difference in the game.

"I thought we should have learned how to handle it a little better," said Centennial senior forward Jalen Ross, who tied for game-high scoring honors with 25 points (on 11 of 19 shooting from the field, including three 3-pointers), along with six rebounds and two steals. "We needed to just play more relaxed, comfortable."

"We should have slowed it down," added junior wing Hayden Boyd, who had seven points (on 2 of 9 shooting from the field, including one "three" and a 2 of 2 day at the foul line), along with two rebounds, two steals, two assists and one blocked shot. "We got into what they wanted us to do instead of what we wanted to do. … We should have slowed it down and been smarter with the ball."

Nelson took a 14-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, with Borin hitting 4 of 6 shots to score eight points, while Ross — whose team turned the ball over seven times in the stanza — kept Centennial close with six points.

The Hawks extended their edge in the second period — forcing seven more turnovers that they converted into nine points — and outscoring the Eagles 23-14 to lead 37-24 at the break.

Borin kept rolling with another nine points there, hitting 4 of 5 shots from the field and his lone free throw, while junior Kurtis Man buried a 3-pointer for that 13-point edge at the half.

Ross kept working for the Eagles, adding seven more points by hitting 3 of 5 shots, including another 3-pointer.

Already deep in trouble, the Eagles saw the Hawks string together a 22-9 run over the first 7 minutes, 18 seconds of the third quarter to take a 59-33 lead when Man rebounded junior Vanndon Heard's miss and scored in the air in the final minute of the period.

Nelson boosted its advantage to 67-44 — its biggest lead of the game — when junior Reid Gray took a pass from Borin and scored on a cut with 4:58 to go, but to their great credit, the Eagles didn't fold.

Instead, they closed the game with an 11-2 stretch highlighted by junior Ethan Klindt's four points (including a "three") and a 3-pointer from senior Angel James before running out of time.

"We just kept up the pressure," Harrison said. "That was the main focus — ball pressure. We did a really good job of that and it paid off."

"We just needed to be smarter with the basketball, really," Boyd said. "It was that and turnovers. We turned the ball over too much (and) … that won't really help you in a full game."

Heard scored eight points (on 4 of 11 shooting from the field), along with three rebounds, three blocks and one assist. Nelson sophomore Sam Lewis added seven points (on 3 of 4 shooting from the field and a 1 of 1 day at the foul line), along with four steals, three rebounds and two assists.

Klindt added 18 points for Centennial (on 5 of 7 shooting from the field, including three 3-pointers and a 5 of 8 day from the foul line), along with two assists and one steal.

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