Mt. Hood CC avenges an early-season loss against Chemeketa

by: SANDY POST: PARKER LEE - Mt. Hoods Mac Johnson gets off a shot during last weeks overtime win.In Mt. Hood’s first meeting with Chemeketa last month, the Saints crumbled in overtime on their way to a discouraging loss. They weren’t about to let it happen again.

The Saints gave Chemeketa a taste of its own medicine as they outlasted the Storm 105-102 in an extra session in Wednesday’s rematch.

“We turned it over seven times in overtime the first time we played them, but our guys stepped up and made plays this time,” Mt. Hood coach Geoff Gibor said. “We were more focused and have more confidence than we did then.

The game was a war of powerful offenses, but it was Mt. Hood’s defense that put the team in position to win. With the score tied at 92-92, Chemeketa took possession with 13 seconds left. After the Storm called a timeout to set up a final play, the Saints snuffed it out and forced a turnover as time expired.

Mt. Hood struck first in overtime and never trailed. Chemeketa was down 104-102 and inbounded with 20 seconds remaining. The Storm rushed down the floor, but the Saints again forced a key turnover to deny Chemeketa the tie. Mt. Hood’s Blake Updike scooped up the loose ball and was fouled with four seconds to go. He missed his first free throw and made the second. The Storm passed it in and launched a shot from half-court in an effort to send the game to a second overtime, but it never drew iron.

“This will help down the road, no question,” Gibor said. “Anytime you can win a close game like that it gives you something to draw from at the end of the season, so this was big for us.”

With the way the second half unfolded, it felt like the team to get the ball last would come away with the victory. For most of the half, neither squad could stop the other as they traded an endless string of baskets. There were eight ties and 14 lead changes in the final 16 minutes of regulation. When the Saints got the turnvoer at the end of the half, they believed that was all they needed to take control.

“It was really all about getting stops,” Gibor said. “We didn’t stop them every time, but we made them work for everything they got.”

On the offensive end of the floor and on the glass, forward Mac Johnson was a staple of consistency all night. The Saints went inside to him whenever they had to have a bucket and he came through more often than not, despite drawing double teams on most of his touches. He scored four points in the overtime period and led all scorers with 30 points. He also grabbed six offensive boards as part of an 11-rebound game.

Updike and Landon Rushton joined Johnson in the attack in the first half. Updike knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in an eight-minute stretch and Rushton delivered nine points in the first 3:20 of the game. The energy of Johnson, Updike and Rushton pushed the Saints to a 51-45 lead at the half.

Mt. Hood didn’t come out with quite the same energy to start the second half, but Denzel Green gave the Saints a much-needed spark. While the rest of the team was struggling to find its shooting touch, Green kept the Saints afloat by scoring eight points in the first five minutes of the second half. He finished with 12 points, all of which came in the second half and overtime.

“He is probably one of the most-improved players to ever play at this school, and he really helped us tonight,” Gibor said.

Updike ended the night with 14 points and Rushton had 17.

With the win, Mt. Hood improved to 6-3 in league play and forced a five-way tie atop the NWAACC South division standings.

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