The Central Catholic boys basketball team is reaping the dividends of a tough preseason.
After going 5-5 in nonleague action, the Rams are 5-0 in the Mount Hood Conference and will face off against David Douglas on Friday.
'Defensively, we're being more active, and we're containing the other team's leading scorers,' says Mike Petrino, Central Catholic coach.
The fifth-ranked Rams had a tough road to open the season. They suffered three losses by three or fewer points, including a 49-48 heartbreaker in the season opener at Jesuit. In the consolation quarterfinal of the Les Schwab Invitational, the Rams survived a 90-82 quadruple overtime game against Beaverton.
'That's the first one of those for me,' Petrino says.
The Rams missed eight free throws in the fourth quarter to let the Beavers tie it at the end of regulation. In both the first and second overtimes, Central had to overcome six-point deficits. In the third OT, Central's star 6-5 post, Demetrius Guice fouled out, but ultimately the Rams won.
'I think that our preseason schedule was probably the toughest of anybody in our league,' Petrino says.
The MHC team that will give Central Catholic a run looks to be Barlow. On Jan. 4, the visiting Rams came from seven points down in the fourth period for a 65-62 win over the Bruins (13-2, 4-1 MHC). The rematch is Feb. 5 at CC. 'Barlow is a very talented team and is loaded with a lot of good players,' Petrino says. 'It'll be a war at our place.'
The Rams feature a well-balanced offense led by 5-11 senior Jordan Freelander (12.2 points per game), Guice (11.8), 6-4 junior Nate Carr (8.6) and 6-1 senior Jake Teeny (8.2).
'We stress the team concept every day,' Petrino says. 'Individuals don't win championships, teams do.'
• Grant guard Paul McCoy says he was surprised by the resignation of Pepperdine coach Vance Walberg last week, and McCoy will consider asking for a release from his letter of intent with the Waves.
'The situation is a little confusing right now,' says McCoy, who has talked with buddy (and fellow Wave signee) Brad Tinsley of Oregon City about the resignation. Benson's Ameer Shamsud-Din also has signed with Pepperdine. The three hoped to be part of Walberg's up-tempo, run-and-gun team.
Walberg's assistant, Eric Bridgeland, has taken over on an interim basis. McCoy says he may or may not stay with the Waves, even if Bridgeland returns as lead man. 'We're all up in the air now,' he says.
-Jesse Severson and Jason Vondersmith