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Bulldogs pull out 46-44 win over Valley Catholic, lose 51-415 to hosting Eagles

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn junior Jonathan Marroquin finished the game for the Bulldogs, sealing the victory over Valley Catholic with a steal leading to a game-winning layup with 1.9 seconds left.PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn sophomore Tomas Veliz stretches out for a bucket in the first quarter of the Bulldogs 46-44 victory over Valley Catholic on Friday.Pre-season wins may be important, but not as much as building experience.

The Woodburn boys basketball team did that and then some at the annual SCTC Holiday Classic hosted at Stayton High School on Jan. 2-4.

The Bulldogs went 2-1 at the event, taking the first two games over Gladstone, 62-58, and Valley Catholic, 46-44, before falling in the tournament championship game to the hosting Eagles, 51-45.

With one game left before the Oregon West opener on Friday, the Woodburn coaching staff is more focused on trying to figure out which combination of players works well with each other and under what circumstances they can excel on the court. It's a delicate balancing act for the Bulldogs, who feature a wealth of talent up and down the roster — much of which is interchangeable on a night-to-night basis.

"With this team, we have a lot of good players that are about the same level, so it becomes who is playing well in practice and in games," head coach Raul Veliz said. "It becomes more of the next man up mentality. We're rotating guys a little bit more."

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn junior Jose Lua has been a spark plug off the bench, scoring 13 of the Bulldogs 15 points in the second quarter against Valley Catholic.Veliz tapped sophomore Tomas Veliz to start as a lead guard to open against the Valley Catholic Valiants — a perennial 4A power that was off to an uncharacteristically poor 1-7 start. But by the end of the game, it was junior Jonathan Marroquin leading the offense and defensive charge at the top of the key, pacing the Bulldogs with several key plays in the fourth quarter that allowed Woodburn to come from behind and steal the victory in the closing seconds.

"I think the main part is that he's so fast defensively, opposing guards struggle with his on-ball pressure," Veliz said about Marroquin. "Really, his defense is where he gets it, and all of a sudden, we feed off of that."

Tied at 44-44, Valley Catholic was looking to seal the game on the final possession. But Marroquin stole the ball at the top of the 3-point line with six seconds left, giving him a clear path for the game-winning layup with 1.9 seconds remaining.

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn junior Jordan Blem has been one of the Bulldogs bench mob players, coming in to provide a jolt of offense from the perimeter.Marroquin finished with a team-high 16 points, all of which came in the second half. Coach Veliz looks at the switch between Marroquin and Tomas Veliz as a strategy for dictating roles heading into the upcoming league schedule.

"We've talked about not really having starters," Veliz said. "We have the setup guys and the knock out guys, guys who may not be there at the beginning of the game, but they're there at the end of the game."

Among the setup guys is junior Jose Lua, an electric shooter who scored 13 of his 15 points in the second quarter, scoring all but two of his team's points in the period to keep his up 23-20 heading into halftime.

"He knows his role is pretty valuable in giving that punch off the bench," Veliz said. "He knows his role and knows what he does well."

No. 8 Woodburn (6-3) was scheduled to host 5A No. 1 South Albany (8-0) on Tuesday before traveling to Sweet Home for the league opener on Friday.

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