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Hawks eye fourth state crown

Southridge battles past Clackamas 53-50 to win a berth at the 6A state tilt
by: JONATHAN HOUSE, THERE SHE GOES — Southridge senior Kiara Tate cuts to the basket to score two of her 11 points during the Skyhawks’ 53-50 win over Clackamas in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs on Saturday at Southridge High School.

BEAVERTON - It was a matchup made for the Chiles Center and one that lived up to that billing, though the site was Southridge High School.

Clackamas proved worthy of a spot in the state tournament, pushing Southridge to the limit in Saturday's second-round game of the Class 6A girls basketball state playoffs.

But the No. 1-ranked Skyhawks wouldn't be denied a chance at a fourth straight state title, holding on for a 53-50 win over the Cavaliers, ranked No. 5 in the AP poll. Clackamas, the Three Rivers League's No. 2 seed, fought back from an early deficit and gave all it had to put a scare into the Metro League champion Skyhawks (21-4).

'Right now, I think Clackamas is one of the best teams in the state,' Southridge coach Michael Meek said. 'Unfortunately, we played this game so early. We knew it would be a battle.'

The Skyhawks tried to take the fight out of Clackamas by jumping out to a 12-4 first-quarter lead. The Cavaliers charged back with an 8-0 run to start the second quarter and took their only lead at 16-14 midway through the period.

Southridge led 25-20 at halftime and twice by as many as nine points late in the third quarter, but the Cavaliers refused to back down. Clackamas closed the gap to three points early in the final frame, then to a single point at 49-48 after Cameryn Calhoun drained a deep three-pointer with two minutes left and followed with a fadeaway jumper with 1:28 remaining.

The Skyhawks, who went 9-of-14 at the line in the fourth quarter, converted 1-of-2 free throws in their next three possessions. The Cavaliers stayed within a bucket on Alisa Griggs' short jumper to make it 52-50 with 29 seconds left.

After being fouled with nine seconds left, Southridge senior Kiara Tate went 1-of-2 at the line. Cavalier Becky Buhler grabbed the rebound and quickly passed to Calhoun, who had a team-high 16 points. Calhoun rushed up court but couldn't get an open look and settled for a one-handed fling at the buzzer that sailed right of the hoop.

'We knew they were a great team and that it would be hard fought,' said senior post Michelle Jenkins, who led Southridge with 19 points. 'We knew they would bring it. We had to grind it out.'

The victory sent the Skyhawks back to the University of Portland's Chiles Center, site of the state tournament that begins today (Thursday). Southridge opens with South Eugene, the Southwest Conference's No. 2 seed, in the final quarterfinal game at 8:15 p.m.

'Every team we play will be a test because everybody is out to beat Southridge,' said Tate, who finished with 11 points. 'We focus on passing that test and finishing with a win.'

Behind an 8-1 run, Southridge started strong in Saturday's 'test.' The Skyhawks took a 12-4 lead by the end of the first quarter as Clackamas made 1-of-8 shots and matched Southridge with six turnovers. Senior Alex Earl, who had with 12 points, and Jenkins each made a pair of buckets in the opening stanza.

The Cavaliers heated up in the second quarter with Calhoun scoring all the points in an 8-0 run for a 12-12 tie. Clackamas then took its only lead at 16-14 after two more Calhoun free throws and a putback by freshman Jen Reese.

Tate answered with a three-pointer to start an 11-4 Skyhawk run that included four foul shots from Jenkins, who made her first 10 free throws and 11-of-12 overall. Southridge held for the final shot and got it to go when Earl swished a deep 'three' at the buzzer to put the Skyhawks ahead 25-20.

Earl picked up her fourth foul midway through the third quarter and went to the bench, yet the Skyhawks pushed on. Southridge stretched its lead to 34-25 when Allison Greene drained a three-pointer with 2:28 left in the third quarter.

But the Cavaliers fought back again with Breanna Baker burying a 3-pointer to make it 36-32 near the end of the period.

Clackamas trailed 38-35 after Buhler's 'three' early in the fourth quarter. Jenkins scored inside, then converted two free throws for a 44-39 lead. Tate's putback and two Earl free throws made it 48-41.

The Cavaliers whittled the lead down to a point at 49-48 but couldn't overtake the Skyhawks.

'Our league prepares us for games like these, as does theirs,' Meek said. 'It was great to play in a game we had to do late-game situations. We look at every game as a chance to get better.'