Gophers knock off No. 1 Central to start league
6A BOYS BASKETBALL
Mount Hood Conference
|#7 Gresham Gophers|
|#1 Central Catholic Rams|
PORTLAND — Central Catholic is not accustomed to chants of 'It's all over' booming from the visitor's bleachers, but that was the scene over the final minute Thursday night as Gresham celebrated a 72-63 win over the top-ranked Rams to open the Mount Hood Conference schedule.
The Gophers were down 10 midway through the third quarter when rookie guard Esyah Pippa-White blew by his defender, wrapped himself behind the backboard and came out the other side to convert the layup that would spark a 16-point scoring spree.
Coming out of a Central timeout, Gresham continued its run when Elijah Munyan attacked the basket, lifting a shot over the outstretched hand of a defender and over the front of the rim. Pippa-White followed with a deep 3-pointer from the left side. Next up, Ethan Abrahamson pulled up at the elbow, let a defender sail past, then let loose with a 15-footer just before a second defender flashed onto the scene. His shot bounced off the front of the rim, then took a hop off the back of the iron before trickling through the net to give the Gophers their first lead 43-42.
But the Gophers were satisfied simply to be ahead.
Munyan grabbed his own miss and put it quickly off the glass for two more points, and Abrahamson squared up his defender and drilled a triple to cap the run, putting Gresham up six late in the third quarter.
"A lot of teams are afraid to get physical and challenge Central," Gresham coach Erik Lyslo said. "We wanted to throw the first punch, and eliminate their offensive rebounds and easy layups that they often get. We came in with the mindset that we were going to win this game."
To start the fourth quarter, Gresham cycled through its offense without finding an open look. Lyslo shouted a change of play from the sideline, and the ball ended up with Pippa-White outside the arc for a 3. A few trips later, Pippa-White drove into traffic only to kick the ball out to Abrahamson, who was set and ready to swish another deep ball.
"If I can draw the help-side defense, I know that is going to create open 3s for my team," Pippa-White said.
The next time down the floor, he dribbled into the key again before finding Munyan alone in the corner. Munyan ripped the net with the team's third-straight triple, clapping his hands and nodding his head while strutting back down to play defense with the Gophers up 10.
"We practice 3s every day, coach wants us shooting them, and when we are on fire we are not going to miss," Munyon said.
Gresham had no plans of clinging to its lead, the Gophers were working hard to expand the margin.
Munyon swished a 12-footer from the baseline, and Ethan Evans got in on the block, waited for a defender to fly past, then made the easy finish.
Approaching three minutes to play, Gresham delivered the death blow.
Abrahamson lined up to take the ball out of bounds in front of the scorer's table when he noticed Munyon doing jumping jacks alone under the hoop. As soon as the referee handed off the ball, Abrahamson zipped a pass over the top of the defense, hitting Munyon for the easiest bucket of the night to give Gresham it's biggest lead at 65-50.
"My guy moved up the court, and I just had to make sure that Ethan saw me," Munyon said.
Gresham's defense remained solid down the stretch, highlighted when Munyon poked the ball loose in the corner, and Abrahamson dived to the floor between two Rams to force the tie up. The possession arrow favored the Gophers.
"We had a double-digit lead, and we knew they only way for them to beat us was if they scored," Abrahamson said. "We just locked down on the defensive end, and it was all free throws and layups when we had the ball."
Abrahamson would convert a three-point play to put Gresham up 69-57 as the clock ticked under a minute, prompting chants of 'It's all over' and 'Who's number one' from the visitor's section.
"This is a statement win," Abrahamson said. "A lot of people thought we might be phony with a top-10 ranking, but tonight we showed everyone that we are legit."
The Gophers victory snapped Central's 16-game league winning streak that dates back to two years ago.
Munyon led the Gophers with 20 points, while Abrahamson poured in 18 points.
Central Catholic scored the first eight points of the game and led throughout the first half.
Gresham stayed within striking distance, highlighted after a Central miss in the second quarter when Pippa-White looked up the floor and fired a deep pass to the far corner of the court. Abrahamson was on the receiving end, taking one dribble to split a pair of defenders before extending the ball out with his right hand and going off glass for the layup.
"I saw him down there and gave him a nice pass, and Ethan made a good shot that got us going," Pippa-White said.
Late in the first half, the Gophers got a boost off the bench when Syrus Sagaio checked into the game and scored down low on three straight possessions. He would convert another pair of buckets in the paint early in the second half and finished with 12 points.
"We he gets in position around the basket, he is difficult to defend. He knows how to create space with his body," Lyslo said. "We talked to our big guys all week about making an impact tonight."
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This story is slated for our Tuesday, Jan. 14, print edition.
Thursday, Jan. 9
GRESHAM 9 17 22 24 — 72
C. CATHOLIC 16 19 9 19 — 63
Gresham (72) — Elijah Munyan 20, Ethan Abrahamson 18, Esyah Pippa-White 15, Syrus Sagiao 12, Ethan Evans 4, Nate Caro 3, Welch, Igbonagwam.
Central Catholic (63) — Darius Gakwasi 15, Luke Johnson 14, Isaiah Amato 11, Jordan King 10, DeRay Seamster 9, Gaige Ainslie 2, Aidan Slater 2, Hallinan.
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