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Spartans lose late lead in difficult 50-49 loss to No. 16-ranked Falcons on the road

PAMPLIN MEDIA PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Hilhi's Quintin Thomas dribbles around a La Salle defender during the Spartans' game against the Falcons Jan. 26 at La Salle Prep.For three quarters, it hardly mattered what offensive plays La Salle Prep's boys' basketball team tried to run Friday night against Hillsboro High School's 1-3-1 zone defense.

Very few of them worked with any consistency.

Then La Salle turned to its bench and got a huge lift from Jack Gabrish, Isaac Kersey-Bronec and Rudy Massaad as the Falcons erased a nine-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter and pulled out a 50-49 Northwest Oregon Conference home win over the Spartans.

Nate Smith and Quintin Thomas led Hillsboro with 11 points each in a game that saw nine ties and six lead changes.

The Spartans (6-11, 2-5) used a 13-4 run at the end of the third quarter to take a 41-32 lead, but couldn't sustain that momentum during the first four minutes of the fourth quarter when the La Salle reserves turned the game around.

"That's a step in the right direction for us," Hillsboro coach Scott Henderson said. "This is the best we've played all year long. We didn't make some shots in the fourth quarter, but our effort was better than any other game we've played.

"La Salle hit shots in the fourth. We tried to use the same game plan that was working, but they hit some shots, we didn't hit shots at our end, and that's the ball game."

Hillsboro made a point defensively to try and limit the number of touches that La Salle's 6-foot-9 Tabor Bosco got near the basket, while practically inviting La Salle to fire away from three-point range.

The Falcons took the bait and played right into Hillsboro's hands early on as they shot 15.8 percent (3 for 19) from beyond the arc in the first half and the Spartans opened a 25-22 halftime lead.

The game was tied at 28-28 when Smith, Hillsboro's 6-4 sophomore, scored twice from point-blank range and Vincent Felder added a three-pointer from the left wing, keying a 13-4 run that gave the Spartans the biggest lead by either team in the game at 41-32.

At that point, La Salle coach Sean Christensen looked to his bench and struck comeback gold with Gabrish, Kersey-Bronec and Massaad, who went a combined 5-for-5 from the field with three three-pointers to put the Falcons back on top 45-43 with 4:34 to play.

"The guys that started the fourth quarter were fantastic," Christensen said. "They changed the game. They made some shots."

After Smith scored on a drive to the basket to pull Hillsboro into a 45-45 tie, Bosco grabbed an offensive rebound off another missed three-pointer and scored to give La Salle a 47-45 lead.

With less than a minute to play, Smith made one of two free throws for the Spartans to make it 47-46, but La Salle answered with two free throws from Norton and one from Bosco to push the lead to 50-46.

Hillsboro's Jakob Allen banked in a three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left to make it a one-point game and then La Salle's Nolan Grogan inbounded the ball to Norton to kill the clock.

Norton was the only other La Salle player to finish in double figures with 10 points, while Gabrish added six points on 2-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc.

For the game, the Falcons shots 41.3 percent (19 for 46) from the field, including 23.3 percent (7 for 30) from three-point range. They also had a 26-21 edge in rebounds and had 10 turnovers to Hillsboro's 11.

Hillsboro's Chaz Bencomo scored eight points, and Jaylen Martinez and Allen added seven points each for the Spartans, who shot 52.8 percent (19 for 36) from the field, 37.5 percent (3 for 8) from long distance, and 61.5 percent (8 for 13) at the free-throw line.

"We're not a good outside-shooting team at times, so we need to work for good, high-percentage shots," Henderson said. "And we did that for most of the game. We just didn't make them in the fourth quarter, we had some turnovers that we hadn't had earlier in the game, and then we missed our foul shots. So, it is what it is."?

Hilhi was scheduled to travel to St. Helens Jan. 31 before returning to host Wilsonville Friday, Feb. 2.

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