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Clackamas falls short against Jefferson in 6A final, 70-67

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There were 15 lead changes before Jefferson's Geno West hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:51 to play, leading the No. 1-ranked Democrats to the win in Saturday's OSAA Class 6A boys' basketball final at the Chiles Center.

PAMPLIN MEDIA: JONATHAN HOUSE - Clackamas senior Elijah Gonzles gets a hug from Jefferson coach Pat Strickland following Saturday's OSAA Class 6A boys' basketball championship game at the Chiles Center.If only the Clackamas Cavaliers had gotten one more shot to fall in the last three minutes against Jefferson …

Or one more offensive rebound.

Or one more defensive stop.

Not two. Just one.

That's how close the Cavaliers were to winning it all Saturday afternoon at the Chiles Center.

Instead, Clackamas' season ended in disappointment after Jefferson's Geno West knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:51 to play and the top-ranked Democrats hung on for a 70-67 victory in the Saturday's OSAA Class 6A boys' basketball championship final.

"It's definitely a big letdown," Cavaliers senior Matt O'Brien said. "We didn't come here to finish second. We came to win. It just didn't work out."

West finished with a game-high 28 points, Thomas Miles added 10 points, and Kamaka Hepa had three points and a game-high 15 rebounds as the Democrats (26-1) clinched their ninth state title and fifth in nine seasons under coach Pat Strickland.

"The boys deserved it," Strickland said. "We came out and it was a hard-fought game and we were able to pull it out and get out champions."

The No. 3-ranked Cavaliers (24-4), playing in the final for the first time since 1994, gave the Democrats everything they could handle in a game that saw 16 lead changes and two ties, including a 34-34 tie at halftime.

After West's 3-pointer put Jefferson up 62-60 with 2:51 to play, Amari Stafford added a lay-up that made it 64-60 with 1:30 left, and then the Demos went a perfect 6 for 6 at the free-throw line in the final 47 seconds to seal the win.

"I feel we played our hardest, but sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce your way, and that's what happened to us," Cavaliers' junior forward Cole Turner said. "We knew this game was going to come down to one possession.

"I wouldn't say we're happy with the performance, but I also wouldn't say we're disappointed with the result, because we know what we've done all year, and everyone is going to remember this team, for sure."

After going undefeated in Mt. Hood Conference play for the second consecutive season, Clackamas opened the playoffs with 67-42 rout of Century, and then knocked off league rival David Douglas 78-63 in the round of 16.

Next, the Cavaliers defeated No. 6 West Salem 68-52 in Wednesday's quarterfinals, and then rocked No. 2 West Linn 78-71 in Friday's semifinals, setting up the showdown with the top-ranked Democrats of the Portland Interscholastic League.

"We beat the odds to get here," Clackamas senior guard Elijah Gonzales said. "I know there were a lot of people who didn't think we'd get this far, but we stuck together as a family and I think that's what really helped put us in a position to play for a state championship."

Clackamas had to dig deep after Jefferson opened the third quarter on a 10-2 run to take a 44-36 and Gonzales had to take a seat for the final 5:38 of the third after picking up his fourth personal foul.

With junior Ryan McDonald running the point, the Cavaliers responded with a 11-1 run, taking a 46-45 lead when O'Brien hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 2:11 to play in the third.

Jefferson regained a 50-46 lead heading into the fourth quarter when Gonzales reentered the game and keyed a 10-2 run that ended with Hunter Coyle scoring on a lay-up to give the Cavaliers a 56-52 lead with 6:01 remaining.

The lead changed hands four more times over the next three minutes, and then West hit the pivotal 3-pointer that made it 62-60 and the Cavaliers never the lead after that.

"It all came down to a couple of little things, a turnover here and a defensive stop there," said Gonzales, who finished with 22 points to lead three Clackamas players in double figures. "It's tough, but you win some, you lose some.

"We went through some ups and downs this season, but we grew as a team and I'm really proud of all these dudes. I know this is my last high school game, but I wouldn't have wanted to play it with anybody else."

Turner had 17 points and seven rebounds, and O'Brien added 11 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 11 seconds to play.

Coyle added eight points and Mitchell Modjesk had seven points, five rebounds and two assists for the Cavaliers, who shot 37.3 percent (22 for 59) from the field.

Jefferson shot 37 percent (20 for 54) from the field, but had six 3-pointers to Clackamas' five, and knocked down 24 of 29 free throws, while the Cavaliers made 18 of 24 at the foul line.

"It was going to end, no matter what," Cavaliers coach Ryan King said. "We would have liked to be on the other end of it, but that's basketball.

"It was a battle. The score see-sawed back and forth, our kids did a great job of fighting and battling there in the third quarter when we got down and came back and took the lead. It just didn't work out in the end.

"These young men gave everything they had and they didn't back down. They kept battling. … I want to thank our kids, and especially the seniors for the four years they gave to this program and all they did for us, taking our program to a level that we had always wanted to get to. I was real proud of them, obviously."

Gonzales and West were both unanimous selections to the all-tournament team and were joined on the all-tourney first team by Marcus Tsohonis and West of Jefferson, and Beaverton's Jake Estep.

O'Brien was named to the all-tournament second team along with Kyle Greeley of West Salem, Kelton Samone of Grant, and Rodney Hounshell and Braden Olsen of West Linn.