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Chase Johnson leads Indians to state title

Johnson scores 26, pulls down 17 boards as Indians beat North Marion 51-48 in 4A state title game


JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Scappoose senior Chase Johnon was such a force in the paint and on the glass in the second half, he normally demanded a double or triple team from North Marion defenders. Johnson finished with 26 points and 17 rebounds in the state title game.HILLSBORO — They might have trailed by as many as 10 points in the second quarter, but it didn’t matter - the Indians were battle-tested and ready, having already fought through a season of adversity.

And on Saturday night, in front of a packed house at Liberty High School, Scappoose rallied past North Marion to take a lead late in the game and hold on to win their first basketball state title since 1973. The Indians outscored North Marion by eight in the fourth quarter to win 51-48.

Tribe senior Chase Johnson, who was honored as the Moda Health Player of the Game and selected to the all-tournament first-team, finished with 26 points and 17 rebounds. North Marion simply didn't have an answer for Johnson, who shot four of seven from the field and hit seven of his 11 attempts from the free-throw line in the second half.

“At the shoot around today, Chase was already dialed in,” head coach Rahim Tufts said. “We talked about how we wanted to attack [North Marion post Kerry Cook], and you could see it in his eyes. I mean, I knew he was going to have a big game. The kid is such a competitor, he's so tough … He was not going to let us lose that game. He was amazing.”

Early on, though, it looked like the hot shooting that got 11th-seeded North Marion all the way to the title game would continue. The Huskies got off to an excellent start from the field, taking a 5-0 lead on a three pointer and layup from Tanner Scanlan.e field, taking a 5-0 lead on a three pointer and layup from Tanner Scanlan.

JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Scappoose head coach Rahim Tufts celebrates with the crowd after the Indians defeated North Marion 51-48 for their first basketball title in 42 years.Chase Johnson scored the next two for Scappoose at the rim, but the Indians went cold from there, missing shots despite out rebounding the Huskies and getting second-chance opportunities.

North Marion continued to hit shots, getting out to a 16-8 lead after the first quarter. Less than 90 seconds into the second period, the Huskies lead reached double digits on a pair of free throws from Cuautli Verastegui, but Scappoose went on an 8-0 run on the back of Johnson and free throws from 6-foot-eight post Ethan Marcantonio to get within 22-20 with under three minutes to play in the first half.

Tufts' message after the first quarter was the same message he'd been preaching all season long: play defense, and the offense will come.

“At the end of the quarter, I just said, 'Guys, just keep grinding. We're missing easy shots. First quarter is over, we've got the jitters out, and now let's go play and defend and rebound.' And I said, 'Everything else will take care of itself. Do those two things, and everything will take care of itself.' And we knew it would. We were getting good looks and knew shots were going to fall,” Tufts said.

The Huskies managed to thwart the Indians furious interior defense to score the final four points of the half to lead 26-20 on a three-pointer from Josh Umbenhower, but Scappoose scored the first eight points of the third quarter to take their first lead of the game at 28-26.

Johnson and Jacob Wendelschafer each had four, but it was now that Johnson was beginning to heat up. But when Johnson sat down late in the third quarter, things started to roll North Marion's way once again. Scanlan connected from distance just before Johnson and Marcantonio subbed out to give the Huskies a 35-33 lead. Josh Umbenhower missed two free throws, but the Huskies came up with the offensive board. North Marion missed a three and snagged another rebound from the offensive glass, and dished bask to Scanlan for three, giving the Huskies a five-point edge heading to the fourth quarter.

Now, all the adversity throughout the year — losing to Marshfield and Philomath in preseason, playing the first several weeks without Jake Ford and losing three of the first four league games — came in handy. Down, but not out wasn't new territory for Scappoose.

“We knew we were going to have tough games,” Johnson said. “It's the state tournament, there's going to be good teams, they're going to make shots. Tufts didn't really say too much, he said, 'Just play our game that we do every day, and we should be fine.'”

They'd have to battle for every inch.

Robby Backus started the rally, grabbing an offensive board and flipping up a shot from under the basket to draw Scappoose within three points. North Marion responded to go back up by five, but the Indians had one last trick they'd been saving.

Junior guard Brennan McNabb had been lights-out from three point range through the first two games of the state tournament, but had missed all four attempts through the first 26 minutes of the state final — that is, until hitting a huge shot to cut the deficit to 40-39 with 5:39 remaining in the game.

A pair of free throws from Johnson gave Scappoose a 43-42 lead moments later. Two more from Johnson with under four minutes to go put the Indians up 45-44, a lead they would never surrender.

The student section emptied onto the baseline in an instant as the Indians — coaches and players — leapt and wept at mid-court, winners of the first basketball title for Scappoose in over four decades.

“I swear, my heart stopped for, like, five minutes and I started crying,” said Johnson. “I was so excited. All these guys that push me to get better every day, it just feels great to win.”

Tufts, though not at a loss for words, seemed almost dazed by the turn of events. Both he and Johnson spoke of commitment during the summer, and both mentioned energy as a key.

And Tufts, always an emotional character on the sideline, during practice and in the locker room, took advantage of the moment just after halftime to rally the hundreds of home-town fans who had made the trip.

“It hasn't sunk in,” Tufts said, the freshly-cut net still gracing his shoulders. “It won't sink in, probably, for a month. I'm so happy for these kids. They're crying, they're so happy. They worked so hard for it. I'm just ecstatic.”

JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - The Indians pose with their championship medals, first-place trophy and tournament bracket at Liberty High School on March 14.

SUMMARY

Scappoose 51, North Marion 48

NRTH 16 10 12 10 -- 48

SCAP 8 12 13 18 -- 51

Scoring: Marcantonio 2, Johnson 26, Wendelschafer 12, McNabb 5, Backus, Lohman 4

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