La Salle earns the Capital Conference's third and final state playoff berth, dropping Estacada in a barnburner

MILWAUKIE - The upstart La Salle Falcons discovered first hand Saturday that records go out the window once you get to postseason play in high school boys basketball.

The Falcons on Saturday survived a late-game scare from Estacada to win 56-48 in a Capital Conference playoff game that earned them their first trip to the state playoffs since 2003.

The Falcons were heavy favorites heading into the game. They'd finished third in league; they'd routed the Rangers 59-34 just 10 days earlier, and they'd given the conference's top teams - Stayton and Cascade - a run for their money in recent games.

But the Rangers (7-16, 4-8) were riding a four-game win string, and they were determined to pull off an upset, and advance to the Class 4A state playoffs.

La Salle led throughout the first half. But the Rangers played with their hearts on their sleeves, and refused to let the Falcons put them away. It was still a 4-point game at halftime, with La Salle nursing a 28-24 advantage.

The Falcons experienced a shooting slump in the third period, finding the mark on just one of 10 attempted field goals.

Estacada 6-4 senior Ryan Olmstead hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the third period to gain Estacada its first lead of the game, at 38-35, and the Rangers could taste the upset.

Rangers have Falcons on the ropes

Emotions got high as both teams went all-out in an intensely fought fourth quarter. And things appeared grim for the Falcons when Vince Hicks and the Falcon bench were both assessed with technicals, with Hicks fouling out on the call.

Estacada senior Kyle Marcus made all four of the free throws assessed on the technicals, and the Rangers found themselves up 44-39, with just over six minutes to play.

La Salle coach Earl Clark called a timeout to settle things down, and the Falcons went to work, creating havoc with a newfound defensive intensity at both ends of the floor.

'That was a lot of adversity,' said La Salle senior forward Evan Burmester. 'In the huddle, we talked about how it was us against the world, and we had to come together as a team, and keep on fighting.'

'There was a lot of time left,' said La Salle playmaker Ryan Soberanis. 'I was confident we could come back.'

Immediately following the timeout, Soberanis came up with a steal at Estacada's end of the floor and he sent the ball ahead to Cam Keeney. Keeney sprinted ahead for a fast-break lay-up, was fouled, and turned his lay-up into a 3-point play.

Burmester stole the ball in the lanes and was fouled. He made one-of-two free throws, and the Falcons were within one point, trailing 44-43.

Following a Ranger miss rebounded by Burmester, Keeney drove the baseline for a 3-point play, and the Falcons were back in the driver's seat, leading 46-44, with 4:24 left to play.

The Rangers' nets rang silent for the next three minutes, and the Falcons put the game away at the charity stripe.

Burmester hit two charity tosses at 4:13 to make it 48-44. Burmester stole an inbounds pass and scored close to the basket at 2:11 to make it 50-44 La Salle. And it was all over but the shouting.

'I wasn't surprised [Estacada gave us a game],' said Soberanis. 'It's the playoffs. There's a lot of emotion in the playoffs and anything can happen. I give Estacada all the credit. They played a great game.'

Evan Burmester crashes the glass

Burmester was huge on the backboards down the stretch, hauling down rebounds on Estacada misses to prevent the Rangers from getting second-chance baskets.

The Falcons had balanced scoring, with Keeney (12 points), Soberanis (11 points), Hicks (10 points) and Cam Brown (9 points) leading the charge.

Soberanis had 6 assists, while Brown, Burmester and Willie Novak held their own on the backboards throughout the contest.

Junior Alex Wallaert (13 points) led Estacada in scoring, but he was the only Ranger to reach double figures.

The Falcons (14-11) were to begin the state playoffs on Tuesday (Feb. 27) at Sweet Home (12-12), the No. 2 team from the Val-Co Conference.

The winner of that game will meet Far West Conference champion and sixth-ranked Siuslaw (17-4) Friday at Siuslaw.

'It's an incredible feeling [making the state playoffs],' said Soberanis. 'It's amazing! Hopefully we'll keep executing and do well. I know we have the talent to do it.'

It's been quite a turnaround for the Falcons. They went 1-11 in league and finished with an overall record of 6-18 a year ago.

The Falcons were co-Tri-Valley League champions with Wilsonville in 2003 when they last advanced to the state playoffs. That team upset a top-ranked team from Marist 57-48 in a first-round game of the Class 3A State Tournament, and lost to Stayton 47-41 in the fourth-place final.

Falcons test third-ranked Eagles

STAYTON - The La Salle Falcons gave the third-ranked Stayton Eagles a run for their money on Feb. 20, yielding in a 54-49 barnburner.

It was still a 2-point game entering the fourth quarter, when the Eagles turned to a delay. Neither team scored a field goal in the fourth quarter.

'It was what high school basketball is all about,' said La Salle coach Earl Clark. 'There was diverse play - running, patience, 3's. The fans were rowdy, with positive energy. Except for not winning, it was a great high school basketball game.'

The Eagles put the game away with sharper free throw shooting down the stretch. The Falcons were 4-for-10 from the line in the final period, while the Eagles were 7-of-13.

Vince Hicks tallied a game-high 21 points in the losing effort. Cam Brown returned from a Feb. 8 ankle injury to score 14 points.

Michael Abbott scored 17 points to pace the Cougars.

The contest was one of wide momentum swings. Stayton was up 15-9 at the end of the first period, but the Falcons out-scored the Eagles 18-7 in the second frame to build a 27-22 lead by halftime.

Stayton out-scored La Salle 25-18 in the third quarter to go up 47-45, and the Eagles hung on for the victory.

It was the 19th win in 23 outings for the Eagles, who tied seventh-ranked Cascade for the Capital Conference championship.

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