Tigard boys hold on to win tourney opener
HILLSBORO — It was another win, and an impressive win, for the Tigard High School boys basketball team.
But it didn't come without some late drama, and maybe a bit of a lesson for the young Tiger squad.
Tigard, after jumping out to a 21-point fourth-quarter lead, had to fight off a late, furious Western Christian rally, to get an 85-78 victory over the Pioneers in a first-round game of the Les Schwab Invitational, The Eight tournament, played Thursday at Liberty High School.
"I think it was good for the most part," said Tigard junior win Brett Moss, who scored 12 points in the win. "We need to work on stopping them in their transition. That's how they were getting all of their points."
"We have to work on finishing off games. We need to keep going up, instead of letting them come back. We have to really work on finishing well," said Tigard senior wing Steven Long, who scored nine points. "We have a really young team, and we just have to mesh together better, especially at the end. We've got a lot to learn, but I think it's going pretty good."
With the loss, defending Class 2A state champion Western Christian, which brought a 29-game winning streak into the contest, moved to 8-1 on the season. Tigard improved to 7-1 on the season with the victory. The 85-point performance marked the third time this season that the Tigers, who are scoring at an average of 73.5 points a game, have scored more than 80 points in a contest.
"We're pretty good all around. I think our depth is good. If someone gets tired, then a guy can fill the spot, and do it well," Moss said. "A lot of guys on our team can score well, and finish around the basket. We have a lot of shooters, so it helps when everyone is flowing and scoring together."
"We just have a lot of skilled players, and I think a lot of us can really play basketball," Long said. "That's just the mindset that we have."
Western Christian got off to a fast start to the tournament tilt, grabbing a 10-4 lead after senior Payton Richardson converted a 3-point play with 5 minutes and 54 seconds left to play in the first quarter. Tigard, with Moss scoring four straight points, battled back to cut the lead to 10-8.
Soon after, the Tigers went on a quick 7-0 run, which included baskets by junior Drew Carter, freshman Malik Brown and a 3-pointer by junior Jake Wihtol, coming off a pass from Brown, giving Tigard its first lead of the game, at 15-12, with 3:16 left in the quarter. A couple late hoops by senior post Dylan Berg helped the Tigers close out the opening period with a 21-18 lead.
Tigard freshman Kalim Brown opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer from the left wing. After that, Carter caught fire — in a big way. The talented junior sank a pair of 3-pointers on his way to scoring 10 unanswered points, coming in a span of 1:59, to push the Tiger lead to 34-20 with 4:53 left before halftime.
Western Christian, behind the play of senior guard Alexander Nicoli, was able to trim the margin to 44-32 at the intermission.
Tigard took off again in the third quarter. Tiger junior Edward Beglaryan connected on a 3-pointer from the top of the circle, Long scored on a tip-in and added a pair of free throws, and Beglaryan scored on a layup off a pass from Kalim Brown, following a steal by Moss, to give Tigard a 57-37 cushion with 4:16 left in the quarter.
Tigard, with Carter sinking a buzzer-beating, pull-up 13-foot jumper, ended the period with its biggest lead of the game, at 68-47.
The Tiger lead was still 21, at 76-55, after Moss scored on a drive to the hoop with 4:53 left to play in the game. At that point, it looked like Tigard was likely going to cruise to a double-digit victory. But Western Christian had a different idea, as the Pioneers came storming back.
Western Christian senior guard Brayden Hopper scored seven points in a hurry, and Nicoli converted a 3-point play to cut the Tigard lead to 80-69 with 2:26 remaining. The Pioneers would get even closer. Nicoli would drill a 3-pointer, and senior Ethan Halgren would scoring a reverse layup, making the score 82-76 with 47 seconds left to play.
Then, following a pair of Tigard missed free throws, Nicoli sank a foul-line jumper, and the Tiger lead was 82-78 with 28 seconds left to play. But the Pioneers wouldn't get any closer. Long went 1 for 2 from the foul line wth 18.8 seconds left to play, and, after a missed Western Christian shot, Kalim Brown scored on a layup off a pass from Moss, helping Tigard close out the 85-78 victory.
"That's a couple times that's happened this year," Moss said, referring to Western Christian's late rally. "We need to work on that, and staying in control, and not letting them run their game, and stay in our game."
"We definitely need to keep our foot on their throat, and keep going," Long said. "We need to get organized. We were unorganized a few times, and they got a couple steals."
Carter led the Tigers in the contest with 26 points, coming on a 9-for-20 shooting night from the field. He also had seven rebounds and four assists. Moss had three assists to go with his 12 points. Berg gave Tigard a spark off the bench with 10 points, six rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. Long had five rebounds and two assists to go with his nine points. Wihtol added nine points. Malik Brown had seven points, five rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals. Beglaryan had seven points and seven rebounds.
Tigard, as a team, made 33 of 66 shots from the field, with five 3-pointers, and 14 of 23 free-throw attempts.
"It was fun for the most part, until the end, then we had to come back a little bit and get it under control," Moss said.
"It was really fun, we just need to lock down at the end," Long said.
Richardson led all scorers in the contest with 27 points. Nicoli added 24 points for the Pioneers, and Halgren scored 14.
Western Christian, as a team, made 31 of 64 shots from the field, with five 3-pointers, and 11 of 16 free-throw attempts.
Tigard will next be in action on Friday, when it meets Mt. Spokane, Wash., in a tournament semifinal game starting at 7 p.m. The Wildcats opened tourney play Thursday with an 89-54 win over Sandy.
Tigard, if it wins its semifinal game on Friday, will face either Pacifica Christian, Calif., or Sunset in the tournament championship game Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
"We're trying to win the whole thing," Moss said. "We want to keep going, play hard every game and work together as a team."
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