There was no school Monday, so the players of Clatskanie’s boys’ basketball team had all morning to consider their aspirations.
After an early shootaround and a few long hours, Clatskanie won its first league title since 2007 with a 47-35 home win against rival Rainier. It secures a first-round state playoff game at home for the Tigers (14-7. 10-2 league). Rainier (13-8, 10-2) will play a winner-to-state game against Willamina or Warrenton on Saturday in Clatskanie.
“I’ve never had this; I’ve never done it, so I’m pretty excited,” Clatskanie coach Deshaun Combs said. “It’s huge. I don’t even know where to go with this.”
Clatskanie earned it with a decisive wire-to-wire win that featured 13 points from guard Devon Jones, including back-to-back 3’s that started a major Tigers surge.
“It was a huge point,” Combs said. “I knew we had the game when a senior stepped up like him. He was huge, and so was Cooper Blodgett.”
Added post Dawson Evenson: “He really brought us home.”
The long wait made the win a little bit sweeter, especially since there was consternation regarding a potential postponement.
“We kept texting coach to see if the game was still on,” guard J’kari Combs said. “I’ve been itching for this game since I woke up.”
By midway through the third quarter, it was evident the Tigers were the likely victors as they slowed the pace to a crawl, taking advantage of the absent shot clock.
“We just wanted to waste time because we knew if we started going too fast we’d lose the ball,” J’kari Combs said. “Usually I like to shoot the ball, but anything for a win.”
Oregon does not have a shot clock, and milking the game clock is an oft-used strategy when teams hold double-digit leads in the second half.
“Slowing them down and making them come guard us, we knew that if we got a 1-on-1 option that they couldn’t guard us,” Deshaun Combs said. “We took advantage of it, and our guards did a really good job of being patient with the basketball, taking the open lane and kicking it to our posts so they could go to work.”
Kenney Tripp scored a team-high 18 points for the Columbians, though it didn’t ease the pain of losing for the second time in three meetings with the Tigers. Rainier coach Logan Nelson took issue with Clatskanie nursing their lead by holding onto the ball, but was also dissatisfied with the Columbians’ play.
“Not everyone was on the same page tonight for us and when you play down to the level of your opponent, sometimes you get nipped in the butt,” Nelson said. “Also, Oregon really needs to fix the the no shot clock, it does not do the kids any good for the game doesn’t teach them anything.
“We’ll take it as a sign of respect.”
The Tigers, meanwhile, get to take away a league title.
“To be a team that’s able to accomplish that is pretty big,” J’kari Combs said.
Added Evenson: “We started believing in ourselves and that’s what really took us to the next level. We started trusting each other and that’s when to get rolling.”
Tiger girls complete perfect league season
Clatskanie’s girls put the finishing touches on their first league title since 1995 with a 58-26 home win over Rainier on Monday. It completes a perfect 12-0 Coastal Range League season for the 17-4 Tigers.
The win was spurred by Shelby Blodgett’s 19 points along with Olivia Sprague’s 17 points. Hannah Farrell led the Columbians with eight points.
Clatskanie will host the first round of the state playoffs. Rainier will play a loser-out game at Willamina later this week.
Monday’s Highway 30 tilt was lopsided by halftime, when the Tigers led 27-8, and they didn’t slow down in the second half. Clatskanie has outscored league opponents by 36 points per game, so it’s a relief to finally enter the postseason.
“I think our last three games we’ve been kind of going through the motions,” Clatskanie coach John Blodgett said. “You think you didn’t play great but you end up winning by 32, so in the whole scheme of things, I’m proud of the girls.”
Clatskanie started practice this season by discussing the banner hanging in the gym, with two years listed as league champions. The first, 1984, was actually a four-way tie. This year was an outright whooping.
For the Columbians, who have had an up-and-down year, the start of a new season is welcome.
“You just need a little chance and we got it,” Rainier coach Doug Knox said. “We’ll go up and give them everything we can and see if we can get a win. Our defense has been good all year, we’ve just had trouble scoring. If we can handle their pressure, and keep them in the 40s, we should be able to score 40.”