TIGARD — There are good starts.
There are great starts.
And there are super-duper absolutely amazing starts.
The Tigard High School boys basketball team had one of those super-duper absolutely amazing starts. And the Tigers rode that start all the way to a berth in the Class 6A state tournament.
Tigard, looking totally invincible in the opening minutes, grabbing a quick 13-0 lead, scored an 85-74 win over Barlow in a Class 6A state playoff second-round game played Saturday in front of a packed gym of exuberant spectators at Tigard High School, giving the Tigers their first state tournament bid since 2002.
"This means a lot," said Tigard senior wing Stevie Schlabach, who scored a game-high 36 points in the victory. "Since the start of the season we've all had this goal, to get to the Chiles Center (site of the Class 6A state tournament). I know that we haven't made it since 2002, and that made us want it even more. And we've wanted this since the beginning of the season."
"This is really big. It's been a goal for a lot of us for a long time — to get to the Chiles Center," Tigard senior wing Jazz Ross said. "Last year, we tried to get there, but it just didn't work out. This year, we worked so hard, and we had the talent, so we thought we should get there."
"It means a lot," Tigard sophomore wing Drew Carter said. "We're going to the Chiles Center, and we're pretty excited about it. We deserve it. This is a great team, and we worked very hard for this."
"It's everything, man," Tigard senior post Luke Ness said with a smile. "Since eighth grade, we've been talking about going to the Chiles Center. To make it there, and achieve that goal, especially since Tigard hasn't been there since 2002, and to end that drought is awesome."
With the loss, Barlow, the No. 2 team out of the Mt. Hood Conference, and the No. 10 team in the final OSAA power rankings, finished its season with a final overall record of 18-8. Tigard, the No. 2 team out of the Three Rivers League, and the No. 7 team in the power rankings, improved to 17-9. The Tigers also advance to the Class 6A state tournament for the first time since 2002, and will face South Salem in a tourney quarterfinal final game set to start at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday at the University of Portland's Chiles Center.
"This has been a huge goal, but we're not done yet," Carter said.
"This was definitely a goal, and it feels good right now, that we made it," Schlabach said. "Our chemistry got us here. We have nine seniors on the team, and that really does helps a lot. And, I feel like we just outworked teams."
The Tigers certainly looked like they were ready to outwork anyone, or anything, at the start of Saturday's playoff game.
Carter got things started in the contest, getting the game's first basket on a 17-foot jumper. The points added up quickly from there. Ross had a steal and layup, and he followed that up with a 3-pointer off an assist from Carter. Schlabach then scored on a drive to the hoop, Carter added a basket on a turnaround jumper and Schlabach followed with another basket, giving the Tigers a 13-0 lead just 3 minutes and 38 seconds into the game, igniting the already boisterous Tiger faithful.
"That was awesome. The gym was filled, and there was so much energy. That definitely helped. We didn't have to build our own energy. It just happened," Schlabach said. "We came out hot. We came out on fire. That was really big. It gave us confidence. When we have a lot of people on our team hitting shots, that just gives everyone confidence."
"There was a lot of energy," Ross said of the start. "We prepared for this game, because we knew they were a really good team, and we got it done."
"Everyone knew that we had to come out firing, and we did just that," Carter said. "It was good. We had good ball movement, and we played really well as a team. The start was huge, it set the tone."
Barlow got a 3-pointer from junior Joey Wolcott, ended Tigard's game-opening scoring streak, but things didn't get much better for the Bruins the rest of the first quarter.
Schlabach scored six straight points later in the period, and Carter added a 3-pointer off an assist from Ness, helping the Tigers take a 26-9 lead to the second quarter.
In the amazing first quarter, Tigard connected on 11 of 15 shots from the field, with three 3-pointers. Schlabach had 12 points, two rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal in the period, while Carter and Ross scored seven points apiece.
"We just came out, and our guys were firing on all cylinders," Ness said. "They were making everything, and playing great defense. And the energy, the students, our bench, everyone was a part of it."
The second quarter started much like the first. Schlabach opened the period with a driving basket. Carter followed with a hoop on a short-range bank shot and senior guard Jake Bullard scored on a drive, upping the Tiger lead to 32-9 with 6:02 left in the period.
Tigard went onto hold a 44-22 lead at halftime.
Carter opened the second half the same way he started the game, sinking a 17-foot jumper. He followed that up with a 3-pointer from the left corner, coming off an assist from junior guard Max Lenzy.
Then, following a pair of free throws by Barlow junior Evan Inglesby, Schlabach scored three straight points, all coming from the foul line, giving Tigard its biggest lead of the game, at 52-24, with 6:35 left in the third quarter.
But the talented Barlow squad came battling back. Behind the hot shooting of Inglesby, who scored 11 points in the period, the Bruins closed the gap to 60-46 with 1:36 left in the period.
Tigard, with Ness going 2 for 2 from the foul line, and with Ross adding a free throw, would take a 63-47 lead to the fourth quarter.
Barlow, not giving up, tried to battle back again in the final stanza. The Bruins trimmed the margin to 12, at 77-65, after Inglesby sank a 3-pointer with 3:19 left in the contest.
Tigard responded with Carter and Schlabach each going 2 for 2 from the free-throw line, and with Ross adding a free throw, to up the lead to 82-65 with 2:21 remaining.
But the Bruins had one more push. Barlow senior Jared Vedus made a pair of free throws, and Inglesby followed that up with a steal and dunk, making the score 82-69 and bringing the Barlow crowd to life.
But, whatever momentum the Bruins gained, quickly went away — in emphatic fashion.
Tigard got the ball up court quickly, with Ross passing the ball to Carter down on the right baseline. Carter, seeing an opening, went skying up to the basket and threw down a thunderous dunk, bringing a deafening roar from the Tigard fans.
"He just dunked, so I had to come back for revenge," Carter said with a smile. "I saw the opening, so I did it."
Carter was fouled on the dunk, and the ensuing 3-point play gave the Tigers an 85-70 lead with 1:43 left to play. Soon after, with the final horn sounding, the Tigers were celebrating their long-awaited return to the state tournament.
"It was great," Ross said. "All the students came out really supported us. They were great, so I ran over to them to show that we were thankful for the love they showed us."
"I just wanted to celebrate — find someone to hug," Ness said.
"We did it," Schlabach said. "We did it — finally."
"The only two things I had to tell the guys was that I've had so much fun this year, coaching them, and I'm just super proud of them and efforts they've put in all year long, and especially tonight," Tigard coach Shawn Alderman said. "Barlow is a great team, and Tom Johnson is a heck of a coach, and we just feel fortunate to get them at home, and sneak out a win. I feel like we deserve to be in the top eight. Stevie was unbelievable tonight, and Drew was unreal."
Schlabach scored his game-high 36 points on an 11-for-11 shooting night from the field. He also had 11 rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals. Carter added 23 points, on an 8-for-11 shooting night, with six rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals.
Ross scored 11 points. Ness, who had to fill different roles throughout the game due to foul trouble, scored eight points, all in the second half.
"Luke Ness, every game, plays a huge role for us," Alderman said. "He comes in, and gets some points, gets us some rebounds and he gives us great energy. He's just an energy guy."
"A lot of guys had fouls, so we had to move people around, but we played well together," Ness said.
Senior Diego Lopez scored four points for the Tigers, and Bullard had three.
Tigard, as a team, made 26 of 35 shots from the field, with six 3-pointers, and 27 of 39 free-throw attempts.
Inglesby led Barlow with 29 points, 24 coming in the second half. Junior Jessie White added 14 for the Bruins, and Wolcott had 10.
Barlow, as a team, made 24 of 60 shots from the field, with seven 3-pointers, and 19 of 30 free throws.
South Salem, the Mountain Valley Conference champion, and the No. 2 team in the power rankings, brings a record of 22-4 into Wednesday's state tournament quarterfinal game. The Tigers and Saxons have already played once this season, with South Salem getting a 60-53 win in a game played Dec. 14 at Tigard High School.
But the Tigers are looking forward to the rematch.
"We're going to get ready for South Salem," Carter said. "They're a good team, but I think we'll do just fine."
"Our goal isn't just to get there, we want to make some noise," Ness said. "I'm looking forward to it."
"We'll prepare for South Salem, and I think we can beat them," Schlabach said.
Tigard, if it wins its quarterfinal game with South Salem, will face either Jefferson or Grant in a state tourney semifinal game Friday at 3:15 p.m. If the Tigers lose to the Saxons, they'll play Jefferson or Grant in a fourth-place semifinal game Friday at 10:45 a.m.
The Class 6A state championship game is set to be played Saturday at 3:15 p.m.
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