Boys' hoops team on a run, beats Molalla, Gladstone, North Marion (twice), before losing to LaSalle

The Rangers finished fourth in the Capital Conference after a narrow tie-breaking win over Gladstone, a stunning comeback victory at North Marion and a near comeback in LaSalle's Brick Oven last week.

'You look at most of the teams in the state and it only ends the way you want it to for one team,' said Estacada High School boys' basketball coach Kevin Kirchhofer. 'I'm proud of our boys. … This whole week has been an amazing run for them. They played hard. They played their hearts out.'

LaSalle beat the Rangers 56-48 on Saturday to advance to the first round of the OSAA 4A Boys Basketball State Championships in a Capital Conference playoff game for third place.

Estacada finished the regular season with a 4-8 league record, tied with Gladstone for fifth place. The Rangers advanced to play fourth-place North Marion after defeating the Gladiators 40-37 at Gladstone on Wednesday.

'Our seniors don't want to lose and they're showing that on the floor,' Kirchhofer said after the Gladstone game.

The game began with a much quicker pace than the last time the teams met, which was a defensive showdown that ended with a 27-11 Gladstone victory.

'That was my mistake last time: sitting back and letting them play their game. Tonight I wanted to come out and force them to play our game, a little bit more up-tempo, get some guys shooting the ball that weren't shooting the ball and it paid off.'

After making five of five foul shots the first half, the Rangers struggled from the line in the second half. They were just 4-for-11 before Alex Wallaert, Gama Olivares and Kyle Marcus scored their team's final four points from the foul line without missing a shot. The Rangers finished the game having made 65 percent of their free throws.

The Estacada boys traveled to Aurora to play the North Marion Huskies for the second time in a week last Thursday. The Rangers had beat them 75-68 on their senior night the Friday before, led by double digit scoring from Wallaert, 16; Marcus, 15; Don DeRosia, 14; and Joey Swan, 11.

Early on, it didn't look like the Rangers had what it was going to take to beat the Huskies on their turf, again. North Marion built on an early 8-2 lead to end the first quarter 16-7.

Estacada's defense tightened the reins on the Huskies' scoring and began battling offensively to get back in the game. The Rangers narrowed the deficit to four midway through the third quarter, but the period ended with North Marion still on top, 33-26.

With just under three minutes to go, Grady Thompson drilled a 3-pointer to take a 41-39 lead. Swan followed with a steal and a lay-in that wouldn't fall, but he was fouled. He made the first shot, put his fist in the air to celebrate, and made the second one and quietly stepped back to play defense, having given his team a 43-39 lead with 2:36 on the clock.

The Rangers hung on, the Huskies turned to fouling and Estacada won 51-42.

'North Marion came out and made runs, made runs. We hung in there, we hung in there, we hung in there and once again our heart and our desire came through-we turned up the pressure on them and we came out in the end,' Kirchhofer said.

The LaSalle game was very reminiscent of the North Marion game in that the Falcons jumped out to an early lead, but the Rangers hung on and didn't let the score get out of reach.

Then, in the third quarter, the Rangers made their attack and tied the game at 35-all when Olmstead converted a three-point play with a foul shot. He followed it with a 3-pointer with :30 on the clock and the Rangers took a 38-35 lead.

But the Rangers couldn't hang on to the lead, despite double technical fouls on the Falcons with about six minutes remaining-Marcus made all four shots to take a 44-39 lead.

Kirchhofer was excited about his team's second trip to the league playoffs in a decade. The Rangers finished third and made it to the second round of the state playoffs in the 2003-2004 season.

The coach wanted to extend his appreciation to the fans who followed the team to Gladstone, North Marion and LaSalle last week, and to the fans who bought the team breakfast at the Viewpoint Restaurant on Saturday morning and dinner in Clackamas after the LaSalle game.

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