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Pioneers tip Cavs in a barnburner

No. 3 Oregon City escapes Clackamas with a 59-57 victory
by: Craig Mitchelldyer, Oregon City Brittany Knighton (34) drives on Clackamas' Alisa Griggs during lalst week's 59-57 Pioneer victory.

CLACKAMAS - The fans got their money's worth here on Jan. 8, as the fourth-ranked Clackamas Cavaliers gave the third-ranked Oregon City Pioneers a run for their money in a key early-season Three Rivers League girls basketball match-up.

The Pioneers prevailed, but they were fortunate to escape with the 59-57 victory. Clackamas led nearly all the way.

Brittany Knighton carried the Pioneers on her shoulders. The 5-11 sophomore wing was unstoppable. She entered the game averaging 14 points, but finished with a career-high 32 points, hitting 12-of-20 shots from the floor and 6-of-7 free throws.

It was Knighton's short bank shot in traffic with 18 seconds remaining that gained the Pioneers their 59-57 winning advantage.

Clackamas got one last chance when Alisa Griggs drove inside with two seconds remaining. But on a controversial call, Griggs was called for traveling, as she and an Oregon City defender made contact.

Oregon City players and coaches breathed a sigh of relief, as the come-from-behind victory was secure.

'With as much physical contact that had been allowed until that point, I thought it was a tough call,' said Clackamas coach John Schlaefli.

It was an especially tough loss for the Cavaliers, because victories over Oregon City are rare in league, and the Cavaliers proved themselves as good as the 2007-08 Pioneer team.

It was Oregon City's 17th consecutive win over Clackamas. The Cavaliers have not beaten Oregon City since 1999.

Schlaefli said he is hopeful his Cavaliers can turn things around on Tuesday, Feb. 5, when the two teams meet again in Oregon City.

'We're going to have to come up with a better game plan against Knighton,' said Schlaefli. 'What she did [in last week's win over Clackamas] was one of the most impressive offensive showings I've seen.'

'Brittany was dominant for us tonight,' said Oregon City coach Kurt Guelsdorf. 'And the nice thing was she did it in the flow of the game.

'I've believed from the beginning that she had a game like this in her. Hopefully she'll do it again. It's a tribute to how hard she works in practice.'

'This win means a lot to us,' said Knighton. 'We've been hearing things, like we're not very good and we're not going to make it to state. This will help us with our confidence so-o-o-o much.'

'For me this is my biggest win [at Oregon City], because it's a Three Rivers League game, and we never lose in the Three Rivers League,' said Oregon City senior co-captain Lindsey Shearer. 'We'll meet [top-ranked] Southridge in the Martin Luther King Day game, and we believe we can give them a game. But to me, this game was much, much bigger.'

Shearer added, 'Brittany played a great game tonight. We wouldn't have won it without her. She carried us on her back….'

Clackamas came out smoking in the Jan. 8 game with Oregon City. And while the Cavaliers were burning the nets, the Pioneers were throwing up bricks.

When Breanna Baker scored off an inbounds pass from Brittney Yates six minutes into the game, the Cavalier lead was 23-11.

A rebound basket by Griggs at the end of the first period made it 25-15 Clackamas.

Oregon City rallied and closed to within 33-31 on a fast-break bucket by Melair Holterhoff late in the first half.

But the Cavaliers ended the half up by six points, at 37-31.

Becky Buhler and Yates did much of the damage in the first half, scoring 21 points between them.

The Pioneers upped their defensive intensity after the halftime break. And when Knighton took the ball to the basket for a bucket midway through the third period, the score was tied for the first time since early in the game, at 39-39.

But the Cavaliers regained a six-point lead on baskets by Griggs, Cameryn Calhoun, Jen Reese and Yates.

Oregon City tied the score again, at 48-48, 2-1/2 minutes into the final period, when Knighton turned an offensive rebound into a three-point play.

And Oregon City went on top - 57-55 - for the first time since the opening minutes of play on a 3-pointer by Knighton with 2:35 remaining.

Following a couple of misses by the Cavaliers, the Pioneers turned to a delay.

But a turnover at 1:36 gained the Cavaliers new hope.

A rebound basket by Griggs knotted the score at 57-57 with 1:20 remaining.

Knighton banked in the game-winner with 18 seconds left, and the Pioneers had enough to escape with the 59-57 victory.

Besides Knighton, Holterhoff had a big game for the Pioneers. The 5-8 junior scored eight points on 4-of-7 shooting, made six assists, stole the ball four times and came up with a team-high six rebounds.

Yates (14 points), Buhler (13 points) and Griggs (13 points) led a balanced offensive effort for the Cavaliers.

'I couldn't fault our kids for their effort,' said Schlaefli. 'They left everything they had out there.'

'In the second half, we were able to defend Clackamas a lot better,' said Guelsdorf. 'Clackamas shot the lights out in the first half, and they only had six [first-half] turnovers. I give John [Schlaefli] and Clackamas a lot of credit. They played a great game.'

'Both teams played hard and they played at an extremely high level,' said Schlaefli.

It was only the second league game for both teams, but the game had added import because Oregon City and Clackamas appear to be far superior to all other teams in the TRL. And the team that finishes second in league will likely have to get by Southridge in order to advance to the Class 6A State Tournament.

'I told the girls if you work hard and continue to improve, it won't matter who you play,' said Schlaefli. 'You'll be able to compete with Southridge or any other team.'

Oregon City hosts North Salem in a nonleague game this Friday. Next Monday they do battle with Southridge in the Martin Luther King Junior Tournament, scheduled for 5 p.m. at the Rose Garden.