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Sizzling start, but a fizzle at the finish

Mt. Hood CC falls out of the playoff race after Saturdays 76-67 loss to SW Oregon


by: THE POST: DAVID BALL - Mt. Hood guard Landon Rushton drives through a crowd of SW Oregon defenders during Saturdays 76-67 loss.

The Mt. Hood men’s basketball team stalled out for a key stretch of the second half and couldn’t recover during a 76-67 loss to SW Oregon on Saturday that ended their hopes of reaching the Northwest playoffs.

After falling behind by as many as eight points midway through the second half, the Saints found themselves back with a chance after Thomas Simien converted a three-point play in the paint to slice the margin to 60-57 with 8:08 left.

The window was open for Mt. Hood to slip in front, but the Saints missed back-to-back fastbreak opportunities.

That was only the start of the trouble.

With its season in the balance, the Saints went four minutes without a point.

SW Oregon wasn’t lighting up the scoreboard either, but the Lakers did enough on the defensive end to stay in control of the game.

Mt. Hood center Cody Mitchell ended the dry spell when he powered over the top of Dereck Miller to score two points on a baseline drive.

But the Saints were never able to shrink the gap to a one-possession game.

The Lakers sealed the victory by going 7 for 8 (.875) at the free-throw line over the final minute. Dexter Williams Jr. barely moved the net on his four makes.

The loss leaves Mt. Hood (5-7) in sixth place heading into the final week of the regular season. The Saints host Linn-Benton in the season finale at 4 p.m. Saturday.

The Saints appeared ready to challenge the playoff-bound Lakers from the opening tip, pounding the ball inside to Mitchell and Mac Johnson and coming away with points on their first four possessions.

Blake Updike added a 3-pointer out of the corner and Mt. Hood was out to a 14-6 lead. The margin would stretch to double digits before SW Oregon rushed back to tie the game late in the first half.

The Lakers took their first lead 37-36 early in the second half when Riley Grandinetti hit a deep 3, and SW Oregon would never look back.

Mitchell led Mt. Hood with 13 points, while Updike added 12.