The Rams will host Tigard Saturday in a second-round tilt

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAN BROOD - Central Catholic junior Cameron Scarlett (right) blocks a shot by Tualatin junior Alexander Reid in Wednesday's state playoff game at Central Catholic.PORTLAND — The Central Catholic High boys basketball team is moving on.

But earning that trip to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs sure didn't seem to be easy.

The Rams had to fight off a persistent Tualatin team — over and over again — before coming away with a 60-51 win over the Timberwolves in a irst-round game Wednesday at Central Catholic

“We did a good job fighting back,” Tualatin junior Jacob Bennett said after the game. “But they're a real good team. They're very athletic, and they outplayed us tonight.”

Tualatin, which was looking to score a first-round state playoff road victory for the third straight year, finished its season 14-11.

Central Catholic, the Mt. Hood Conference champion, improved to 16-9 with its 12th straight victory.

The Rams advanced to the second round. They'll play host to Pacific Conference champion Tigard at 5 p.m. Saturday at Central PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAN BROOD - Central Catholic sophomore Ben College goes to the basket.

The Tigers, who are 18-6, defeated the Rams earlier this season, getting a 64-53 victory in a first-round contest at the Les Schwab Invitational, played Dec. 27 at Liberty.

But Central Catholic played that game without junior point guard Deante Strickland.

Strickland showed how much of a difference he can make in Wednesday's playoff opener, as he scored a game-high 22 points in the win over Tualatin. He tallied 16 points in the decisive second half.

Central Catholic took its first lead at 3-1 when junior post Patrick Myers scored on a short-range turnaround jumper with 6:45 left in the first quarter.

The Rams would keep the lead the rest of the game, but they were never able to put the Timberwolves away.

Central Catholic, with six dplayers each making one field goal, staked a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Strickland scored six points in the second quarter, and sophomore La'Mar Winston added a pair of hoops to help the Rams push the margin to 30-22 in the final minute of the first half. But Bennett sank a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the corner to make the score 30-25 at PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAN BROOD - Central Catholic junior Patrick Myers goes to the basket between Tualatin juniors Steven Shockloss (left) and Jacob Bennett.

The Rams seemed to regain momentum in the third quarter. Consecutive baskets by Winston, Myers and Strickland gave Central Catholic its biggest lead to that point, at 40-29, with 2:11 left in the period.

Tualatin battled back, getting back-to-back layups from sophomore Danté Reid to trim the margin to 40-33. But Strickland answered. He went 1 for 2 from the free throw line with 1:07 left in the period and then he drilled a 3 with 4 seconds remaining to give the Rams a 44-33 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Another Strickland 3-pointer gave Central Catholic a 47-35 advantage with 6:37 remaining. But, again, Tualatin came storming back.

The Wolves got a 3-pointer by Bennett and then four more points, all coming on free throws, to trim the margin to 47-42 with 4:37 remaining.

But the Rams didn't led Tualatin get any closer.

Strickland scored seven points in the final 2:46 to help Central Catholic close out the 60-51 victory.

In addition to Strickland's 22 points, the Rams got 11 points each from Winston and Myers.

Central Catholic made 25 of 59 shots from the field and outrebounded Tualatin 39-26. The Rams also helped force the Wolves into 22 PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAN BROOD - Central Catholic's Deante Strickland shoots over Tualatin senior Joey Fishback.

Reid led Tualatin with 17 points, and Bennett added 12.

The winner of Saturday's second-round state playoff game at Central Catholic will advance to the state tournament and face top-ranked West Linn or Grant in a quarterfinal at 1:30 p.m. next Thursday at Moda PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAN BROOD - Central Catholic junior Blake Brandel (right) blocks a shot by Tualatin sophomore Luke Osborn

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