Damascus punches return ticket to state tourney

BOYS BASKETBALL - Eagles blow out Spray 57-39 in playoff opener
by: David Ball, Damascus forward Jeff Hester heads to the basket after making a steal in the first half of the Eagles' 57-39 playoff win over Spray on Friday night.

The Damascus Christian boys basketball team backed up its No. 1-ranking by crushing Spray 57-39 in the second round of the OSAA Class 1A playoffs Friday night.

The Eagles jumped to a double-digit lead in the first period and were never challenged. Desperate to make up ground quickly, Spray spent most of the fourth quarter misfiring from long range. Unable to get open looks from the 3-point line, Spray launched several attempts from near midcourt.

'Getting that quick lead was part of our game plan,' Eagles' guard Joe Russau said. 'That allowed us to be patient on offense and get open shots, while they were trying to force things.'

While their opponents were clanking shots off the rim, Damascus had little trouble finding the hoop. The highlight came midway through the fourth period when Ryan Closner intercepted a pass and started the other way. The Eagles spread themselves around the 3-point arc and put together four quick passes that kept Spray chasing the ball. Finally, Russau sent a short pass into the corner and yelled for Closner to 'Hit that, baby.'

Closner did just that, ripping a 3-pointer through the net to put the game out of reach 47-31.

Damascus, the defending Class 1A champ, advances to the eight-team state tournament in Baker City. The Eagles will take on McKenzie in the state quarterfinals Wednesday, Feb. 28.

Extended basketball coverage is published in the Saturday, Feb. 24, issue of the Gresham Outlook.