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Saints keep their poise to down Panthers

Free throws power Mt. Hood to a 71-63 win, handing Portland its first league loss


by: SANDY POST: DAVID BALL - Mt. Hood CC's Brock Otis drives to the basket to finish a fastbreak during last week's 71-63 win at Portland. PORTLAND — The Mt. Hood CC men’s basketball team was dialed in from the free-throw line Wednesday night to earn a 71-63 win at Portland CC.

The Saints took a 12-point lead into halftime and maintained a comfortable edge throughout the second half, which was largely a parade to the free-throw line. The festivities got started by a player sitting on the Panthers bench when he was whistled for a technical foul after leaving his seat.

Landon Rushton walked alone to the far basket and swished the pair.

The free-throw line would prove to be the team’s main source of scoring over the final 20 minutes. The Saints put up twice as many free throws in the second half as they did shot attempts, pouring in 22 of their 37 second-half points from the line.

Mt. Hood reached the bonus less than six minutes into the second half and hit a string of seven straight free throws, while in the key one-and-one phase of shooting. By the end of the night, Portland had fouled out two starters and another was just one hack away from a spot on the bench.

Mt. Hood’s defense also came up big, highlighted when Portland guard Tremaine Channel broke free in the backcourt only to have Mt. Hood’s Kylelle Brown catch up to the play, knock the ball loose and dive on the floor to gain possession.

Portland shot just 19 for 70 (.271) for the night.

Mt. Hood wasn’t lighting it up at the other end either with its first 11 points in the half coming from the free-throw line.

The team didn’t hit its first basket until almost 10 minutes had ticked off the clock when Brock Otis sent a sharp pass down low, leaving Denzel Green with a quick spin to the front of the rim. The basket put Mt. Hood ahead 47-33 — actually expanding on their halftime lead by two points.

Green would put in two more baskets from close range to supply the Saints with a much-needed spark off the bench.

“I was able to step in and play my part and get some baskets for the team,” Green said. “We were playing with a cushion, so we could be patient. We handled the ball well and pulled the game out.”

Portland made its only charge when C.J. Easterling and Jordan Wood connected on back-to-back 3s, and teammate Josh Turner scored a putback underneath to bring the Panthers within 59-53 with five minutes to play.

Portland had a chance to move closer with a drive to the basket, but Green stepped across the lane and blocked the shot. Mt. Hood took the ball the other way and came up empty on four attempts before sending a pass out of bounds.

While the turnover didn’t produce points, it did take more than a minute off the clock while Portland was in ‘catch-up’ mode.

“We worked all week on rebounds, and the guys stepped up with that tonight,” Mt. Hood coach Geoff Gibor said.

The Saints regained command when Barlow High graduate Brock Otis swished a 3 from the sideline to push the gap back to 64-55 as the clock rolled under three minutes.

“They left me wide open, and I’m confident I can knock those shots down,” Otis said. “No lead is comfortable, and we just kept battling.”

Mt. Hood put the game out of reach when Rushton shook his defender and beat the shot clock with a layin to push the gap to 11 points with 1:58 left.

Jaden Thomas and Otis led the Saints with 15 points apiece, while Rushton added 13. Center Mac Johnson scored 11 points, despite getting off only five shots on the night while battling a constant flow of double teams.

The win helped the Saints close in on the South Region leaders by handing Portland it’s first league loss.

“This is a win that not a lot of teams are going to get,” Gibor said. “These are the games you have to win.”