Tigard finishes with a bang to defeat Central Catholic in Les Schwab Invite opener

by: DAN BROOD - LET IT FLY -- Tigard senior Nick Kaelin takes a long-range shot during the second half of Friday's game at the Les Schwab Invitational. HILLSBORO — Eight minutes.

Down two points to a very talented squad.

No problem at all.

At least it’s not when you have a fourth quarter like the Tigard High School boys basketball team had.

The Tigers got off to a roaring start at the prestigious Les Schwab Invitational, turning in a near flawless fourth-quarter performance, on their way to rallying for a 64-53 win over Central Catholic in a tournament first-round game played Friday at Liberty High School.

“That was a big win,” Tigard senior Nick Kaelin said after the victory. “We finally got it together. We played hard and it really came together. We really stepped it up in the fourth quarter. We played with a lot of energy.”

“That was a big win for us,” Tigard senior guard A.J. Hotchkins said. “Central Catholic is a pretty good team. We just had a lot of effort in the second half.”

“We never let a play go by us,” Tigard senior guard Bryan Berg said. “We played with a lot of effort all game.”

Central Catholic moved to 2-5 on the season at that point with the setback. Tigard improved to 3-2 at that point with the victory.

“That was a real good win,” Tigard coach Shawn Alderman said. “It’s always nice to get one here, and Central Catholic is a real good team.”

The two squads battled back and forth in Friday’s tournament opener, which tipped off at 9 a.m.

Central Catholic finished the third quarter on a 6-1 run, which included a pair of baskets by junior post Patrick Myers, to take a 49-47 lead into the fourth DAN BROOD - GOING FULL SPEED -- Tigard senior A.J. Hotchkins (left) drives hard to the basket against Central Catholic sophomore La'Mar Winston during Friday's game at the Les Schwab Invitational.

But that’s where the Rams ran into a determined Tigard squad.

“Coach told us we had eight minutes to win the game,” Berg said.

And the Tigers sure seemed to make the most of those eight minutes.

Tigard started the quarter with back-to-back layups by junior post Joel Johnson and Kaelin, giving the Tigers a 51-49 lead with 6 minutes and 2 seconds left in the game. Berg then drilled a three-pointer to up the margin to 54-49 with 4:24 remaining.

Central Catholic got a pair of free throws from junior guard Xavier Hallinan to temporarily end the Tigard run, but the Tigers took off again soon after.

Tigard senior win Elijah Simon sank a 12-foot jump shot, Johnson scored on a dunk off an assist from Berg and Hotchkins put in a layup to give the Tigers a 60-51 advantage with 1:45 remaining.

A follow-up basket by Myers — Central Catholic’s only field goal of the fourth quarter — cut the lead to 60-53 with 1:31 left to play.

But Tigard, getting a short-range jumper by Hotchkins and a pair of free throws by Johnson, closed out the 64-53 win.

“The kids played with a lot of energy over those last eight minutes,” Alderman said. “I’m really proud of their effort.”

In the fourth quarter, Tigard was a perfect 7 of 7 from the field, while the Tiger defense helped force Central Catholic into a 1-for-15 shooting performance in the period. Tigard also outrebounded the Rams by a 17-5 margin in the final stanza.

“It was mostly energy,” Kaelin said. “We really turned it up.”

“We showed what we can do,” Berg said. “We just stayed calm with the ball.”

Johnson came up big for Tigard in the fourth quarter with six points, four rebounds and a blocked shot in the period. Hotchkins added four points and five rebounds in the quarter.

Tigard also got off to a fast start to the game.

Kaelin had a pair of baskets, coming off assists from senior post Niko Niblack and Hotchkins, and Berg added a pair of free throws to give the Tigers an early 6-0 lead. Simon sank a pair of 17-foot jumpers later in the first quarter, which ended with Tigard holding a 10-8 lead.

by: DAN BROOD - SIDE BY SIDE -- Tigard High School senior Elijah Simon (right) battles Central Catholic's Cameron Scarlett during Friday's first round game at the Les Schwab Invitational, held at Liberty High School. Simon scored 14 points to help the Tigers get a 64-53 win. Kaelin and Berg each scored five points in the second quarter, and senior Jett Even added a three-pointer to help the Tigers claim a 30-29 halftime lead.

Simon continued his hot shooting in the third quarter, sinking a pair of three-pointers and scoring a total of eight points in the period.

Simon also ended up leading a balanced Tigard scoring attack for the game with 14 points on a 6-for-7 shooting night. Berg and Kaelin each scored 12 points. Johnson had 11 points to go with 10 rebounds and two blocked shots and Hotchkins had eight points and 10 rebounds.

“We stepped up on the break,” Hotchkins said. “We were able to get a lot of baskets off the break. Oh yeah, this was a lot of fun.”

Hallinan led Central Catholic with 14 points.

The fast start had the Tigers hopeful for the rest of the tournament.

“We want at least two wins,” Kaelin said. “We’re going to play tough and play hard. We want to prove that we’re one of the best teams in the state.”

“There’s some great competition,” Hotchkins said. “It gives us a chance to see where we’re at.”

On Saturday, Tigard fell 58-44 to defending Class 6A state champion West Linn in a tournament quarterfinal contest.

Johnson led the Tigers with 13 points and seven rebounds in that game. Simon added 12 points and Berg scored 11.

Tigard bounced back to beat Jesuit 67-56 on Sunday in a tourney fifth-place semifinal game.

Berg had a strong overall performance in that contest with 22 points, on 7 for 12 shooting, six rebounds and four assists. Simon had 12 points and five rebounds, Even added 10 points and Hotchkins had nine points and eight rebounds.

With that win, Tigard avenged a 64-50 loss to the Crusaders in a game played Dec. 20.

The Tigers were scheduled to face Jefferson Monday in the fifth-place game of the Les Schwab Invitational. Due to early holiday deadlines, results of that game were not available when The Times went to press.

The Tigers will be back in action Tuesday when they host West Linn in a non-league game starting at 7:15 p.m. at Tigard High School.

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