PORTLAND — The Tigard High School boys basketball team was ready to go.
The Tigers got off to a strong, impressive start.
But they weren't able to turn that solid start into a state tournament victory.
Tigard, after struggling in the second quarter, and having South Salem fight off its comeback attempts over and over in the second half, fell 56-46 to the Saxons in a Class 6A state tourney quarterfinal game played Wednesday at the University of Portland's Chiles Center.
"We didn't play how we wanted," said Tigard senior Diego Lopez, who scored 11 points in the contest. "We had a rough second quarter, and they outscored us by a lot. During halftime we talked about how we could get back in the game, but we couldn't. We couldn't pull through in the end."
"We didn't get the 'W,' but we played hard," said Tigard sophomore Drew Carter, who scored a team-high 15 points. "South Salem is a good team, and they did a good job slowing down the game, and they really took control."
With the win, South Salem, the Mountain Valley Conference champion, and the No. 2 team in the final OSAA power rankings, improved to 23-4 on the season. The Saxons also advance to the semifinals of the state tournament, where they'll face Jefferson on Friday in a game starting at 3:15 p.m.
Tigard, the No. 2 team out of the Three Rivers League, and the No. 7 team in the power rankings, moved to 17-10 on the season. The Tigers will face Grant on Thursday in a fourth-place semifinal game starting at 10:45 a.m.
"Now, we want to come back tomorrow strong," Carter said. "We need to keep things going, and avenge this loss with a win."
"It will be a tough Grant team, for sure," Lopez said. "I know they'll be coming for us, but we're coming for them as well."
Tigard, playing its first state tournament game since 2002, got off to a strong start in Wednesday's tourney quarterfinal contest. Tiger senior Stevie Schlabach opened the game with a basket on a drive to the hoop, and senior Jazz Ross followed that up with a put-back basket, giving the Tigers a quick 4-0 lead.
Another hoop by Ross and a 3-pointer by Carter, coming off an assist by senior Jake Bullard, gave Tigard an 11-6 lead with 3 minutes and 44 seconds left to play in the first quarter. Lopez scored on a baseline drive later in the period, Ross added a layup off a pass from Lopez and senior Luke Ness sank a last-second 3-pointer, coming off an assist by junior Max Lenzy, giving the Tigers an 18-12 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
"We came out firing, which was really good," Carter said.
"We were coming in the same as the Barlow game (an 86-75 playoff win on Saturday, where the Tigers got off in an amazing start), we were really fired up," Lopez said. "But, credit to them, they were really strong and really deep. They've got some really good ballplayers, and we couldn't get it done."
Tigard couldn't carry its hot start to the second quarter. In fact, the Tigers missed their first seven shots from the field in the period. Tigard only scored three points in the quarter, coming on a 3-pointer by Carter, which tied the scored at 21-21 with 2:17 left in the quarter.
South Salem junior guard Trey Galbraith then scored seven unanswered points in the final 1:12 of the quarter, giving the Saxons a 28-21 lead at halftime.
"In the second quarter, they went into a zone and our intensity level went down, and, unfortunately, we just stayed that way," Carter said.
South Salem then opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run, which included four points by senior guard Jaden Nielsen-Skinner, upping the margin to 34-21 with 5:25 left in the period. But the Tigers came battling back.
Lopez scored five straight points, and Carter added a basket on a drive, quickly trimming the lead to 34-28. Tigard would go on to trail 38-30 going into the fourth quarter.
Carter opened the final stanza with a 3-pointer from the left side, cutting the South Salem lead to 38-33 with 7:46 left in the game. But, again, South Salem responded. The Saxons went on a 9-2 run, capping things off with a pair of free throws by Nielsen-Skinner, which gave South Salem a 47-35 advantage with 2:45 left to play.
The Tigers kept fighting. Schlabach sank a foul-line jumper, coming off a Lenzy assist, Lopez added a hoop on a drive to the basket and Schlabach drilled a 3-pointer, making the score 53-42 with 1:18 remaining. But that wasn't enough, and South Salem held on for the 56-46 victory.
"During the second half, we tried our best," Lopez said. "Our goal was to attack the defense, because that was what was working for us. We had an opportunity, but we just missed it in the end."
"We made some runs, but it wasn't enough," Carter said. "We kept chipping away, but they extended the lead. We just couldn't execute, and they played well."
Carter had seven rebounds to go with his team-high 15 points. Lopez got nine of his 11 points in the second half. Schlabach had seven points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Ross scored six points, senior Peyton Sievke scored four and Ness had three. Bullard had a team-high three assists.
Tigard, as a team, made 19 of 46 shots from the field, with six 3-pointers, and two of four free-throw attempts.
Nielsen-Skinner led all scorers with 20 points. Galbraith scored 17 points and senior Ryan Brown added 12 for the Saxons.
South Salem, as a team, made 18 of 43 shots from the field, with three 3-pointers, and 17 of 21 free-throw attempts.
Tigard, if it defeats Grant on Thursday, will face either Center Catholic or Oregon City in the tournament fourth-place game, to be played Saturday at 9 a.m.
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