Seventh-ranked La Salle turns to depth and scrappy defensive play to get by the physical Cheesemakers

MILWAUKIE - Last week's 55-49 win over 10th-ranked Tillamook was a confidence builder for La Salle's boys basketball team.

The seventh-ranked Falcons earned the win despite having several key players operating at less than 100 percent.

'We've got the flu bug going around and we had a different lineup,' said La Salle coach Earl Clark.

What pleased Clark the most was the depth demonstrated by several players who typically don't see a lot of varsity playing time.

Regulars Ryan Soberanis and Vince Hicks both played but played weakened by the flu, and the Falcons were missing 6-2 forward Taylor Knoth, who was away competing in an international racquetball competition.

Cam Keeney started at point guard in place of Soberanis and guards Brian D'Amore, Jeff Leslie and Tahir Mahmood saw big minutes on the floor in Soberanis' absence.

Clark praised the guards for their ball handling, their aggressive defensive play and their shot selection at crucial times in the game.

'We only had nine turnovers,' said Clark. 'Brian, Jeff and Tahir all knocked down huge 3's and they played pesky defense.'

The Falcons led at the end of every quarter, but the Cheesemakers kept in the game with a physical inside game.

'They dominated us on the boards,' said Clark. 'Defense and ball handling were pivotal for us.'

Junior forward Willie Novak paced the Falcons in scoring with 14 points.

The Falcons' depth was reflected in the fact that 10 different players put points on the scoreboard.

Besides the victory, the Falcons got good news with the return of junior Morgan Maughan to the lineup. The 6-4 forward had been out of action since a Dec. 7 ankle injury.

It was the fourth win in a row for the Falcons, who improved to 6-1 on the season.

The Falcons get their final tuneup for Capital Conference play this week, when they travel to Sisters for a tournament with the host Outlaws, Tillamook, Junction City, La Pine, Burns and Mohawk.

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