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Gonzales leads Clackamas past West Salem, 68-52

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Elijah Gonzales led all scorers with 31 points as the Cavaliers advanced to Friday's semifinals of the OSAA Class 6A boys' basketball tournament at the Chiles Center.

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Clackamas' Elijah Gonzales led all scorers with 31 points in Wednesday's OSAA Class 6A boys' basketball quarterfinal win over West Salem at the Chiles Center.Clackamas' Elijah Gonzales turned the Chiles Center into his personal playground Wednesday evening.

Gonzales finished with 31 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, and four steals, leading the Cavaliers to a 68-52 victory over West Salem in the quarterfinals of the OSAA Class 6A boys' basketball tournament.

Mitchell Modjeski also scored in double figures with 10 points for Clackamas, but the story of the game was Gonzales, the 5-foot-9 senior point guard, who knocked down 12 of 22 shots with six 3-pointers to help send the Cavaliers into Friday's 3:15 p.m. semifinal against West Linn.

"That was great," Gonzales said. "It was great to win one here, but we know we aren't done. We have to keep coming out here to compete.

"I felt great. I mean, it's my second time here, so there were a little bit of nerves, but really it was just like any other game. We just have to come out here and play."

After West Salem's Kyle Greeley converted a three-point play to give the Titans a 15-13 lead with 2:07 to play in the first quarter, the Cavaliers closed the quarter on a 10-0 run that started with Gonzales knocking down a 3-pointer.

Clackamas then went on an 11-5 run to open the second quarter, taking a 34-20 lead when Gonzales drove to the basket with 1:51 left in the half.

"Yeah, it's nice to play with the lead, obviously," Cavaliers coach Ryan King said. "It would have been a little bit different if it had been a little bit tighter, but our kids have been here, so I think that experience helps a little bit."

Clackamas twice extended the lead to as many as 21 points in the third quarter, the second time at 48-27 when Gonzales found room in the lane and scored on a lay-up with 2:53 remaining.

"It helps to have a guy like that," King said of Gonzales, named this season's Mt. Hood Conference Player of the Year. "He's a pretty good player. And I've said this all year, he's actually a better person than he is a player, if you can believe that, too. So, he's just a phenomenal kid to be around. A great leader, a great kid."

West Salem's Jordan Linn scored the final basket of the third quarter and the first two of the fourth to cut Clackamas' lead to 12 points, 53-41, but that was as close as the Titans came in the second half.

Clackamas' Hunter Coyle finished with six points and five rebounds, and Patrick Gregg added six points off the bench for the Cavaliers, who shot 47.7 percent (27 for 57) from the field, 50 percent (9 for 18) from 3-point range, and had a 35-22 advantage in rebounds.

"We shot the ball well," King said. "The kids did a job. They were ready to go. They relaxed, which was nice."

Greeley led West Salem with 20 points, Lind had 11 off the bench, and Zac Bulgin added six off the bench.

The Titans shot 38.5 percent (20 for 52) from the field, and 31.6 percent (6 for 19) from long range.

Clackamas, which lost to South Salem 82-74 in overtime in last year's quarterfinals, advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2003.

"Obviously, the kids are excited about it," King said. "It's an opportunity for us to come out Friday afternoon and see what we can do."

By Jim Beseda
Sports editor
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