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Bruins place fourth after tough losses to undefeated Link Academy, Beaverton; Gophers finish 1-2.

COURTESY PHOTO: LES SCHWAB INVITATIONAL - Barlow freshman Jalen Atkins scored with ease during four games in the Les Schwab Invitational last week. Two schools from East Multnomah County joined a regional basketball tournament that featured some of the top teams in the state as well as a national powerhouse from Branson, Missouri.

Both Barlow and Gresham joined in the Les Schwab Invitational that ran Dec. 26-30. The two squads now enter Mt. Hood Conference League play this week.

The overall winner of the tournament was Link Academy, which strung together four straight blowouts including a final victory over Tualatin in the championship bout. Barlow lost 84-51 to Link Academy in a Wednesday, Dec. 29, semifinal. Link (20-0) was ahead by 8 points at halftime before cruising to a victory over the Bruins (5-4) by holding them to zero fourth quarter points.

COURTESY PHOTO: LES SCHWAB INVITATIONAL - Barlows Jalen Atkins rises for a shot during the Les Schwab Invitational.  Despite being undersized against the nationally ranked top-10 team, Barlow knocked down eight three-pointers in the first to keep it close and ended up shooting 13 of 35 (37%) from deep. In that match, Barlow freshman guard Jalen Atkins scored 19 points, while senior guard Connor Hills added 17 points.

The overall star for the Bruins was Atkins, who scored with ease from across the court. In four tournament games, Atkins shot 40% from the field and 46% from the 3-point stripe. He averaged a team-high 14.5 points.

The Bruins shined in their first two games of the tournament, besting Sherwood 56-51 and Roosevelt 80-74. Barlow finished fourth after losing the runner-up match against Beaverton 59-43.

As a team, Barlow hustled throughout the tournament. The pair of senior bigs, Nathan Jones and Jesse Jones, powered the Bruins to 25.8 rebounds per game, and the team averaged 9 assists per game. Defensively Barlow averaged 7.8 steals and 2 blocks during the tournament.

The Bruins will travel to Clackamas Wednesday evening, Jan. 5.

COURTESY PHOTO: LES SCHWAB INVITATIONAL - Gresham junior guard Esyah Pippa-White averaged 19.5 points during the tournament. Gresham played three matches at the Les Schwab Invitational after dropping their first two games by a total of only 7 points — a 61-59 nail-biter against Tigard and 68-63 against Churchill. That sent the Gophers out of the main bracket and to a final match against Evergreen High School, from Vancouver, Washington.

The Gophers (4-4) rallied in that final match, beating Evergreen 62-40.

Gresham's offense at times looked electrifying in the tournament as the Gophers averaged 63 points per game. The star, like he has been his whole career, was junior guard Esyah Pippa-White, who averaged 19.5 points and had nearly a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. His backcourt mate junior Scotty Riddle added 15.8 points, and sophomore RJ Alexander averaged 12 points per game in the tournament.

Gresham will next play at David Douglas Wednesday evening, Jan. 5.

East County stars shine

Jalen Atkins, freshman guard, Barlow — 14.5 PTS, 40.4 FG%, 45.8 3PT% (11-24 3PT)

Esyah Pippa-White, junior guard, Gresham — 19.5 PTS, 6.5 REB, 41.4 FG%, 24 total AST

Scotty Riddle, junior guard, Gresham — 15.8 PTS, 4.5 REB, 33.3 3PT%

Nathan Jones, senior forward, Barlow — 10.7 PTS, 4.3 REB, 45.8 FG%, 71.4 FT% (10-14 FT)

Jesse Jones, senior center, Barlow —10.3 PTS, 7 REB, 58.1 FG%

RJ Alexander, sophomore, Gresham — 12.0 PTS, 2.8 REB, 44.4 FG%, 42.3 3PT%

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