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The monkeys off their backs


OC guys drop Canby for their first league win

After a tough, tough 48-47 loss to Lakeridge on Feb. 5, the Oregon City Pioneers got the monkey off their backs last Friday, earning a 45-38 boys basketball victory over Canby.

It was the Pioneers’ first victory in Three Rivers League play, and the win avenged a 52-44 loss to the Cougars in a Jan. 15 game at Canby.

“This win means everything for us,” said Oregon City coach Aaron Newkirk. “After a tough last couple of years, we wanted to have a winning season. We’re one away from doing that. And if we can win one more league game, we’re likely to get a home game in the [state] playoffs.”

The win put the Pioneers at 11-9 on the season and 1-6 in league with league games remaining with Clackamas (9-11, 2-5), top-ranked Lake Oswego (21-0, 7-0) and at cross-river rival West Linn (16-5, 6-1). The Pioneers were competitive with both Clackamas and West Linn the last time they played those two teams.

Newkirk said that senior co-captain Valentino Polk made the Pioneers’ “biggest basket” so far this season when he hit a 3-pointer late in the game with Canby.

Polk’s trey, scored in transition, put Oregon City up by four points with 2-1/2 minutes to play.

Trevon Bradford and Cody Hole then salted the game away with can’t-missing shooting from the charity stripe.

Free throws were pivotal in the game, which saw both teams making runs. Canby was up 12-11 at the end of the first period; Oregon City led 25-19 at the half and 31-29 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Pioneers were 13-of-17 from the free throw line for the game.

Newkirk said that the Pioneers’ defensive play on Canby 6-5 post Sam Stelk was also pivotal.

“Stelk hurt us last time [12 points] and we weren’t going to let that happen again,” Newkirk said. “We double-teamed him the whole game.... Brad Martin did a great job defending him.”

Canby senior guard Coby Cates led the Cougars with a game-high 18 points in last Friday’s game, but Stelk was held to just two points.

Polk (10 points, 3 assists), Hunter Knighton (10 points) and Bradford (8 points) led a balanced Pioneer offensive attack. Knighton hit three 3-pointers.

“Our defense has been pretty solid all season,” Newkirk said. “The last time I checked we were fourth in the state in terms of points allowed and last Friday was the second least points that we’ve allowed an opponent....

“We’re still working on the offensive end, but we’re getting there.”

Last Friday’s 48-47 loss to Lakeridge was especially tough, because the Pioneers had lost to the Pacers in double overtime earlier in the season.

“We played well enough to win the game but were unable to execute [at crunch time]....,” Newkirk said. “There is no question we are getting better, we just need to be more opportunistic. Our players are doing a tremendous job of practicing and preparing hard for every game....”

Trailing 41-33 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Pioneers nearly pulled out the win. They had the final possession of the game, but turned the ball over before they could get a shot off.

Freshman Trevon Bradford tallied 15 points to lead the Pioneers in scoring, but he was the only Oregon City player in double figures. Bradford was a hot-handed 6-of-8 from the field.

Martin (8 rebounds) and Austin DeWitz (8 rebounds) were tough on the backboards, as the Pioneers outrebounded their hosts 31-22.

Senior guard Michael Walker had a big game for the Pacers, scoring a game-high 17 points, dishing out four assists, and claiming five rebounds.