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Wolves slam down a victory

Boys basketball: Tualatin keeps its grip on first place in league by scoring a 52-47 win over Tigard
by: JAIME VALDEZ, FLOOR BURNS — Tigard High School junior Matt Alexander (top) and Tualatin junior Brandon Troxel battle for a loose ball.

TUALATIN - The way Anthony Freeman, Jr. started the Tualatin boys basketball team's game against rival Tigard, it was only fitting that the junior put the exclamation point on the Timberwolves' victory.

Freeman scored Tualatin's first nine points and put down a thundering dunk in the fourth quarter as the Wolves scraped to a 52-47 win over the Tigers on Tuesday at Tualatin High School.

The 6-foot-6 Freeman, who had a team-high 15 points, and Brandon Troxel, a 6-foot-5 junior, led a strong inside presence against an undersized Tigard team. Troxel added 10 points to help Tualatin overcome a rough shooting night by providing plenty of second chances.

'We really worked on that this week,' said Freeman of the inside presence. '(Coach Rick Osborn) told me to go up strong and be physical.'

Freeman did, scoring on a pair of putback shots then working inside for another basket off a Matt Losli assist in scoring the team's first nine points for a 9-6 lead midway through the first.

Tigard tied the game at 12-12 and 14-14 but never led and fell behind 27-20 by halftime after missing its final nine shots of the second quarter. The Tigers shot just 34 percent in the game - 1 of 12 beyond the 3-point arc.

'Offensively we did not shoot very well and turned the ball over too much,' Tigard coach Shawn Alderman said. 'We had some good looks and didn't knock them down.'

Still, the Tigers were in it until the end. Tigard senior Isaiah Ferrer swished a 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 29 seconds left to make it 51-46. Tualatin went just 3 of 9 from the free line in the final minute, but the Tigers could get no closer and fell to 2-2 in Pacific Conference play and 7-6 overall.

'That's been the story,' said senior Ryan Gorton, who led Tigard with 15 points. 'All but two of our losses have been down to the wire. We aren't there yet and you can tell. We lose a lot of close games.'

Tualatin is getting there, avenging an 0-3 mark against the Tigers last season and maintaining their hold on the Pacific's top spot at 4-0 (9-3 overall) with the victory.

'We were really excited, especially coming off last year,' Freeman said. 'What we got, we earned. We threw the first punch and came out ready to play.'

Eric Kjemperud drove inside and kicked the ball out to Alex Murray for a 3-pointer to give Tualatin a 12-6 lead. Tigard battled back with senior point guard Derek Alik scoring on a scoop layin then grabbing a steal and racing ahead for a fastbreak layin to make it 12-12.

But Tigard's inability to keep Tualatin's guards in front of them led to success inside by the Wolves, who took a 19-14 lead early in the second quarter when Taylor Hart drove the paint and tossed outside to Jordan Highland for a 3-pointer.

'I don't think we knew they were as quick as they were,' Gorton said. 'They got by us pretty easily. We didn't get enough perimeter pressure on the ball.'

And the Tigers couldn't get their shots to fall in the second quarter. After a Figura bucket and free throw for a 3-point play, Tigard closed to 19-17 with 7:30 left but didn't connect from the field the remainder of the half, missing their final nine shots.

Tualatin took advantage and a 27-20 lead into halftime after Freeman worked inside for a field goal and Kjemperud followed his own miss for a putback with five seconds left.

The Tigers went another two minutes without a bucket to open the second half but the Wolves couldn't put them away. Troxel's three-point play gave Tualatin a 32-24 lead and later 40-30 on a 3-pointer by Mick Bies and a Troxel free throw.

Tigard answered with Kyle Gustafson tossing to Gorton for an alley-oop bucket and Gustafson scored on a putback off his own miss as Tigard trailed 40-34 heading into the final quarter.

Tigard tried to press in the final minutes, but Troxel and Bies broke it with Bies maintaining a low dribble to split three defenders before bolting through and finding Freeman for the jam and 49-41 lead.

'Last year I could dunk, but I wasn't physically ready,' Freeman said. 'I put on a few pounds. Now when I sky, if someone bumps into me, it's going down.'

It did and so did the Tigers with it for the second straight game after losing to Canby 48-45 in overtime on Friday when they converted 4 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter.