Portland CC moves into the final playoff spot with an 82-71 win over reigning South Region champ Mt. Hood CC

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Portland's Tremaine Channel sends a shot over the top of Mt. Hood center Colby Mitchell during the Panthers' 82-71 win Wednesday night.

The Portland CC men's basketball team held off wave after wave from Mt. Hood in the second half to score an 82-71 home win Wednesday night that puts the Panthers solidly into the playoff mix heading into the final weeks of the regular season.

The Saints first came to the doorstep early in the second half when Blake Updike was fouled on a 3-point attempt. Three swishes from the free-throw line, and Mt. Hood found itself within a point.

But Portland CC responded with a flurry of points, putting up two baskets within a matter of seconds.

Warren Edmondson streaked down the middle of the court and finished a fast break. Mt. Hood tried to push the ball back the other way with a long inbounds pass, but Portland’s Mike Gregory went high into the air to intercept it near midcourt. His feet touched the ground, and he had the ball ahead to C.J. Easterling for another easy two at the rim, and the Panthers were back ahead comfortably 54-45.

“We were focused on getting stops the whole game,” Portland’s Max D’Auvergne said. “We wanted to be aggressive and not let any passes over our heads.”

With the clock rolling under five minutes, Mt. Hood was growing desperate for a spark. Updike provided it by hitting a 3 from in front of the bleachers — Mt. Hood’s first lone ball of the second half. The Panthers pulled out the fire extinguisher seconds later when Gregory set up at the top of the arc and got the points back with a 3 of his own.

Still, the Saints kept coming.

This time it was Jalen Thomas flying through the lane for a 3-point play, followed by center Colby Mitchell hitting a rare 3 from the corner to slash the lead to three points with 2:30 to play.

Portland’s Max D’Auvergne knew that a potential playoff trip was at stake, and he wasn’t about to let this one get away. He was guarded tightly at the edge of the court with the shot clock ticking down when he sank the biggest shot of the night.

Spinning away from the defender he got just enough space to loft an 18-foot fade-away shot into the air. The ball ripped through the net, making it a two-possession game once more with 1:34 on the clock.

“He was playing me tight, but that’s kind of my shot,” D’Auvergne said. “It felt good leaving my hands and ended up going in.”

D’Auvergne wasn’t done.

At the other end, Mitchell came thundering toward the rim, but barely got off his feet before D’Auvergne reached in and swiped the ball out of his hands.

The Panthers closed out the victory by hitting 9 of 12 (.750) foul shots in the final minute.

The game ended with Mt. Hood’s Denzel Green flying to the rim, trying to beat the buzzer with a dunk.

He never got there.

D’Auvergne saw the play from across the lane and rushed to the scene to make the block, slamming the ball into the court as the buzzer sounded, putting an exclamation point on the win.

Gregory, Marcus Bailey and D’Auvergne led the team with 16 points apiece.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Portland CC's Mike Gregory stays in front of Mt. Hood guard Blake Updike on Wednesday night. Gregory shared the team scoring lead with 16 points in the Panthers' win.

The win puts Portland (5-4) one game ahead of Mt. Hood into the South Region’s fourth and final playoff spot. The Panthers can move farther up the ladder this weekend when they travel to third-place SW Oregon (6-3).

The teams traded the lead 11 times in the first half rarely separating by more than a couple baskets. Portland pulled away late with a nine-point surge that ended with the team getting three straight chances from point-blank range before Bailey tucked it over the front of the rim for a 30-22 lead.

The Panthers biggest advantage came on the boards where they outrebounded Mt. Hood by a dozen, resulting in 25 second-chance points for the night.

Mt. Hood whittled it down to a single basket, but the Panthers took a 41-36 lead into halftime after D’Auvergne beat the horn with a 3-pointer.

View a photo gallery from the men's game at ...

The Portland CC women's team scored a 73-58 win, getting a double-double from Imani Burris with 20 points and 12 rebounds. The teams were deadlocked heading into halftime, but the Panthers shot nearly 50 percent in the second half to get the win.

Mt. Hood's Sadie Jenks hit 6 of 11 (.545) from 3-point range to lead the Saints with 20 points.

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