Gladstone guys advance to the final eight for only the third time in 25 seasons

MONMOUTH — Intent upon proving themselves one of the top boys basketball teams in the state, the unheralded Gladstone Gladiators did just that last Friday, upsetting sixth-ranked Central 51-42 in a Class 4A state playoff game at Central.

The upset earned the Gladiators a berth in the eight-team Class 4A State High School Tournament, which runs through Friday at Oregon State University’s Gill Coliseum.

It’s only the third time since 1988 that a Gladstone boys basketball team has made the final eight.

Gladstone placed fourth at state in 1988 and the Gladiators were sixth in 2009, when they dropped a 61-59 heartbreaker to Cottage Grove in the fourth-place final.

This year’s team, like the 2009 Gladiator ball club, entered postseason play as decided underdogs. The Gladiators in 2009 finished with an overall record of 15-11, after going 6-6 and placing fourth in the Capital Conference.

This year’s squad went 5-5 in the Tri-Valley Conference and finished as the conference’s fourth and final seed in the state playoffs.

The Gladiators entered this week’s state tournament with a 14-9 record. They were to meet Tri-Valley Conference champion and cross-town rival La Salle (23-2, 9-1) in Tuesday’s state quarterfinals, with the winner advancing to an 8:15 p.m. Thursday night semifinal game with either second-ranked North Valley (24-0) or eighth-ranked Sutherlin (19-7).

Gladstone and La Salle met twice during the league season, with the third-ranked Falcons winning two close game, 42-36 and 40-39.

“I like being underdogs,” said Gladstone coach Ted Yates. “I think people tend to overlook you when your underdogs, and we seem to play best when our backs are to the wall.”

Yates said he was not at all surprised with his Gladiators’ success in postseason.

“Looking back at all the losses we had in close games in league...., the kids kind of lost their confidence,” Yates said. “But the confidence is back. The kids believe they belong in the race. They work really hard, and you can’t count them out in any game.”

Defense was pivotal in the upset of the Central Panthers. The Gladiators rallied around their full-court press to force more than 30 turnovers.

Michael Stoutt (7 steals), Kobe Williams (5 steals) and Jacob Kelly (3 steals) headed up the defensive onslaught.

“I think the keys for us were getting stops,” Yates said. “And we didn’t have that bad quarter where we couldn’t score. That was the biggest difference from [the close games that we lost]. Our confidence is rising.”

The score was tied at 18-18 at halftime. The Gladiators went ahead for good in the third quarter, and they put the Panthers away with sharp free throw shooting in the final period.

“I think that in the second half, we just kind of wore them down,” Yates said. “We had 24 steals, and a lot of those were in the second half.”

Stoutt, Kelly, Trevor Browning and Handsome Smith combined to go 11-for-13 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.

Through aggressive defense at Central’s end of the floor, the Gladiators held the Panthers to just 22 percent shooting from the field (11-for-48) for the game.

Stoutt (15 points), Austin Galvin (11 points), Handsome Smith (7 points, 4 assists) and Kobe Williams (4 points, 3 assists) headed the Gladiator offensive attack.

“We had some monster games from kids off the bench,” Yates said. “Austin Galvin scored a season high 11 points. He was 5-of-6 from the field, and he had a 3-pointer....

“Kobe Williams came off the bench and really sparked our defense.”

Ranked 15th in the final OSAA power rankings, the Gladiators advanced to last Friday’s state playoff game after upsetting Cottage Grove 53-51 in a state playoff play-in game at Cottage Grove.

Central, the third-place team from the Oregon West Conference — behind top-ranked Cascade (24-1) and fourth-ranked Philomath (17-5), finished the season with an overall record of 18-7, with the Panthers’ only losses to Cascade, Philomath, Yamhill-Carlton, La Salle and Gladstone.

The Panthers gave Cascade a run for its money in a recent game with the Cougars, losing 56-51.

They’ll be back

tough as ever

Gladstone High coeds kept pace with fifth-ranked Cascade for a half in a state high school girls basketball playoff game played at Cascade on Saturday.

Trailing by just five points, at 24-19, at the half, the wheels fell off in the second half, and the Gladiators got blown out 54-32.

A combination of injury, foul trouble and cold shooting did the Gladiators in.

Gladstone senior post Alisa Bradshaw suffered a concussion when she took a charge in the second quarter, and she did not play in the second half.

And the Gladiators sat sophomore guard Molly Webster and Mikaela Simac at a crucial time during the third quarter, when those two got in foul trouble.

The Gladiators also had a tough time getting their shots to drop. For the game, they found the basket on only 25 percent (11-of-44) of their shots from the floor. They made only one of 15 shots from 3-point range and many of the 3-point misses came in the second half, when the Gladiators were attempting to play catch-up.

“The game was pretty physical,” said Gladstone coach Pat Scott. “The fouls were even in the first half, but we picked up some quick ones in the second half and had to sit some people.”

Junior guard Austyn Lowder and senior guard Kassi Sanders led the Cougar second-half surge. Lowder scored 10 of her 12 points in the third and fourth quarters; Sanders scored 7 or her 11 points in the second half.

Senior guard Alejandra Marquez paced the Cougars in scoring with 14 points.

Webster (11 points) was the only Gladiator in double figures in scoring.

The win advanced the Oregon West Conference champion Cougars (19-5, 9-1) to the eight-team Class 4A State Tournament. They were scheduled to play fourth-ranked La Salle (22-3, 10-0) today at 3:30 p.m. at Oregon State University’s Gill Coliseum in the quarterfinals of the tournament.

This is the second straight year that the Cougars have played spoiler for the Gladiators. A year ago Cascade came to Gladstone and won 55-49 in the final playoff round before the state tournament.

Coach Scott said that despite last Saturday’s disappointing loss, he couldn’t be more proud of what his charges accomplished this year, especially considering their youth and inexperience at the varsity level.

“I told the girls not to let this one game diminish what they accomplished,” Scott said. “No one thought they’d be as successful as they were. I’m tremendously proud of them.”

Scott added, “They should be proud of themselves, but not satisfied. This is just a stepping stone toward what’s to come....

“If the kids continue to work hard, and improve, I think the sky’s the limit for us from here on out....”

This year’s Gladstone varsity finished with an overall record of 15-8, after gong 7-3 in the Tri-Valley Conference and tying Madras for second place — behind La Salle (10-0). Bradshaw was the only senior on this year’s varsity.

Gladstone’s jayvee, which was made up mostly of sophomores, also enjoyed success. They went 8-2 in conference (13-6 overall), sweeping every conference team except La Salle.

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