PORTLAND – A year ago, Clackamas' freshman-dominated girls team learned a hard lesson in state tournament basketball with a humbling semifinal loss to eventual champion Beaverton.
Wednesday, the fifth-seeded Cavaliers showed how much they have grown by taking control early and pulling away late for a 67-42 win over No. 4 Beaverton in the quarterfinals of the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 6A tournament at the Chiles Center.
“That's one of the big differences from last year is this year we're very self-assured,” senior center Eliza Buerk said. “We're not necessarily overly confident, we're just very confident and not cocky.
“All we see is, 'OK, we're playing Beaverton in the first round, and if we lose that game, we're on the losing side of the bracket, and there's no way we're going to let that happen.'”
Sophomore guard Sara Barhoum made four three-pointers and scored 18 points to lead Clackamas. Sophomore Jazzy Davidson had 16 points, four rebounds and five assists and the 6-foot-3 Buerk drilled two three-pointers and added 10 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots.
Cavaliers coach Korey Landolt liked how her team, which starts three sophomores and two seniors, responded to the challenge.
“They have really grown together this season,” Landolt said. “There's leadership, and the girls have done a good job following leadership. They're talented players, but just how they lock in on the game plan, then go out there and execute it the way they did, it just makes me super proud of them.”
Clackamas (24-4), unbeaten against Oregon teams and No. 1 in the OSAAtoday 6A coaches poll, will continue pursuit of its first state title Friday in a semifinal against top-seeded Jesuit. The Cavaliers defeated the Crusaders 47-29 in the POA Holiday Classic on Dec. 30.
Clackamas never trailed against senior-led Beaverton (19-9), which returned four starters from its championship team. The Cavaliers scored the game's first seven points and held the Beavers at arm's length until running away by scoring the game's last 17 points.
On Dec. 14, Clackamas got a small measure of revenge with a 42-38 win at Beaverton. But the Cavaliers say they bear little resemblance to the team they were three months ago.
“We were all sick and hurt,” Barhoum said. “It's just like two different teams. But our goal is just to be the better team, and come together for this game, because it's a whole different game. Everyone's trying at a different level for the Chiles Center. So we just had to show up and play together and get the 'dub.'”
Despite two losses to the Beavers last season, Buerk said the Cavaliers “have always known that we can hang with them.” The win in December was nice, but the stakes were much higher Wednesday.
“That's what makes this victory so sweet is because of that rivalry,” Buerk said. “I said in December, 'This isn't the one that matters. We're going to play them in March, and that's the one that matters.'”
Buerk opened the game with a three-pointer and Davidson added two baskets to make it 7-0. The Cavaliers pushed the lead to 21-11 on a drive by Barhoum in the second quarter, but Beaverton stayed within 24-18 at half on the strength of 11 points by senior guard Zoe Borter.
Buerk scored seven consecutive points for a 35-23 lead midway through the third quarter. Beaverton kept battling, though, and got back to 40-34 on a basket by Borter with 7:25 left in the game. The Beavers still were within 50-42 when senior point guard Madison Naro hit a three-pointer with 4:44 to go.
But Beaverton would not score again, and Clackamas finished it off by making 12 of 14 free throws in the last four minutes. The Cavaliers knew they couldn't afford to take their foot off the gas against the dangerous Beavers.
“They're just so lethal, and they get so hot and they go on such quick runs,” Landolt said. “They're such a good team, it was hard to realize that time was ticking and you've got a sizable lead.”
Barhoum, who entered averaging 9.9 points per game, came out firing with confidence and made 4 of 6 shots from three-point range. Her shooting was reminiscent of last year's third-place game, when she hit 5 of 7 from deep in a win over South Medford.
“She was feeling good,” Landolt said. “We love it when Sara's feeling good at the Chiles Center.”
Said Barhoum: “I missed my first one, but I'm not just going to stop shooting. The good shots are the good shots, and my team, we need those shots, so I try to step up and make them.”
Buerk not only made a difference on offense, but also on defense, providing a deterrent at the basket against drives by Borter and senior wing Lainey Spear.
“We knew that they wanted to get Spear and Borter to the rack, and having a 6-3 girl that can wall up made that shot kind of difficult,” Landolt said. “It's a big blessing for us, for sure.”
Borter and Naro scored 14 and 11 points, respectively, to lead Beaverton. The University of Portland-bound Spear, the 6A player of the year last season, was plagued by foul trouble and scored six points.
Beavers coach Kathy Naro didn't like how her team started the game.
“We were fading away from the basket,” she said. “I felt like they were very aggressive offensively and we allowed them to kind of dictate where we went. And they hit shots. I mean, they shot the ball really, really well. They're a fantastic team. They're super talented. I wish them all the best.”