Youth and a tough schedule lead to a 2-6 start

OREGON CITY - Oregon City's youthful boys basketball team continued to make strides last week, as the Pioneers took a veteran ball club from Grant down to the wire in a 75-72 loss.

The game was close all the way and the Pioneers converted at a .541 (26-for-48) clip from the field - with six 3-pointers - in the losing effort. Oregon City led 39-38 at halftime, 59-58 at the end of the third quarter, and 68-66 when junior guard Jarom Youngblood made a pair of free throws with 3:22 to play.

While the Pioneers started four juniors, the Generals started four seniors, all of them with experience from a year ago.

Grant's Adam Newell was the Pioneers' nemesis. Scoring from both the outside and on drives to the basket, the 6-2 senior hit six 3-pointers and scored a game-high 28 points on the night. It was his 3-pointer with 3:04 to play that put the Generals on top for good, at 69-68.

Grant 6-5 junior Tre Battle widened the gap to 71-68 with a rebound basket, and the Generals made enough free throws down the stretch to hang on for the 75-72 victory.

'We're working hard and we're getting progressively better,' said Oregon City senior captain Lyle Rinearson. 'Each game our ball control is better, and our defense is improving. We're much more aggressive, and people are helping out on defense….

'I think that if we continue to work hard, we're going to surprise some teams [in league].'

The Pioneers had five players in double figures in scoring in the Grant game - Youngblood (19 points), junior wing Andy Rondema (17 points), junior guard Joey Baldwin (14 points), Rinearson (11 points) and junior guard A.J. Mayo (11 points). Baldwin hit four 3-pointers.

The Pioneers demonstrated a lot of quickness against the Generals, scoring both on drives to the basket in their half-court offense, and on the fastbreak.

With the loss, the Pioneers slipped to 2-6 on the season.

'We've had a tough preseason schedule, but we're getting better each time out,' Rinearson said, noting that four of Oregon City's six losses have come at the hands of top-10 ranked teams - fourth-ranked Lincoln, third-ranked Central Catholic, and twice to ninth-ranked Barlow.

While the Pioneers fell to Barlow 83-68 on Dec. 10, they took the Bruins down to the wire on Dec. 17, losing 64-61.

And Rinearson said he believes the Pioneers will get a huge boost later this month, when senior playmaker Malcolm Paulston joins the lineup. Paulston had arthroscopic surgery on a knee three weeks ago.

'I think he's going to make a huge difference,' Rinearson said. 'He's an outstanding leader. He'll do a lot to help us set the tempo and get our offense under control.'

The Pioneers entertain Clackamas (6-2) this Friday and Lakeridge (6-3) next Tuesday.

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