Oakland's boys basketball team has had games this season when its offense dried up or its defense wasn't on point.
So far, though, it hasn't cost the undefeated Oakers (22-0, 14-0 2A Valley Coast Conference), who are off to their best start since 2001.
“Luckily, we haven't had a night when both are bad,” coach Jeff Clark said of his team, which is ranked No. 5 in the OSAAtoday 2A coaches poll.
Oakland has a long history of success. In Clark's 30 seasons as coach, he is 627-182 with three state titles (2000, 2006, 2013) and has never finished with a losing record. This season, he moved up to No. 10 on the state's all-time wins list.
But Clark didn't know what to expect this season after graduating three starters from a team that went 22-6 and lost in the first round of the state playoffs.
“I wasn't sure how we were going to do,” he said. “We had a lot of new pieces. They're playing at a much higher level than we anticipated.
“We thought we had the potential offensively but weren't sure about our defense, and it's turned out the other way. Our defense has played really well and our offense has been a little up and down.”
Oakland holds two wins over teams currently ranked in the top 10 of the 2A coaches poll, defeating co-No. 7 Kennedy 49-34 in a nonleague game Dec. 14 and No. 6 East Linn Christian 55-46 in overtime in a Valley Coast game Jan. 27.
The road win over East Linn Christian (17-4, 12-1) gave the Oakers sole possession of first place in the conference. Junior guard Joseph Fusco had 22 points and seven rebounds and junior post Gabe Williamson had 10 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Senior wings James Baimbridge and Gavyn Woody shut down the Eagles' leading scorer, senior Tanner Israel, who did not score.
The 5-8 Fusco and the 6-0 Williamson, third-year varsity players, are the returning starters. Fusco is averaging a team-high 17.5 points along with four rebounds, four assists and two steals. Williamson is putting up 12.0 points and a team-high eight rebounds per game.
The three new starters are the 5-10 Baimbridge, 5-10 junior guard Coltyn Jacobs and 6-7 freshman post Jaxson Clark, the coach's nephew and the brother of Sutherlin girls standout Addyson Clark.
Depth has been a strength for the Oakers, who are getting valuable contributions off the bench from Woody, senior post Jacob Chenoweth, junior post Kellan Sabo and freshman wing Ryan Fullerton.
“It's been great to play nine guys and have that many options,” Jeff Clark said. “It's been different guys on different nights.”
Jaxson Clark, who is sharing time at post with three others, is making his presence felt inside with his long frame. He also is showing improved footwork and an ability to find teammates.
“The speed of the game gets to him a little bit, but he's 6-7, so he does a great job on the boards,” Jeff Clark said of his nephew, whose father Tim is 6-9. “He's getting a couple blocks a game, and changes quite a few other shots. He's adjusting to the physicality of varsity but his size makes a big difference.
“I want to see how much he's going to grow to see how much this plays out. It's exciting.”
Oakland gets good three-point shooting from perimeter players such as Fusco, Woody, Fullerton and Jacobs, and its posts also can strike from deep. The Oakers caught fire in overtime against East Linn Christian, getting points from six different players.
“Offensively, we have a lot of different kids that can score in a variety of different ways,” Jeff Clark said. “When we're clicking, we get out in transition and run. We put a lot of pressure on teams on the perimeter.”
Oakland has yet to measure itself against the top 2A teams from the Willamette Valley: No. 1 Regis, No. 2 Western Christian, No. 3 Portland Christian and No. 4 Mannahouse Christian Academy.
“We still feel like we've got a long ways to go to be in their league,” Jeff Clark said.
Still, the Oakers believe they have a chance to make a deep postseason run.
“Our goal every year is to play on Saturday at the tournament,” Jeff Clark said. “We want to play for a trophy each year. We've been a couple years short of that, so I think we're a little bit driven.”
No. 5 Woodburn rallied from a nine-point deficit in the final three minutes to edge No. 4 West Albany 61-60 with first place at stake in the 5A Mid-Willamette Conference on Friday.
Visiting Woodburn (13-4, 10-1) trailed 58-49 with three minutes to go before coming back. Woodburn took a 61-60 lead with 6.7 seconds left when sophomore Anthony Figueredo scored on a layup off a steal by junior Cruz Veliz.
The winning basket came off a West Albany inbound play. Veliz swiped the ball off a dribble and found Figueredo.
“We had two fouls to give. Just try to get a steal.,” Veliz said of Woodburn's strategy. “He kind of lost it on himself. I got a little hand on it, got on the floor and got up and saw (Figueredo) shooting for a lay-in. I was thinking, 'No way.'”
Veliz and 6-9 senior Liam Slattum scored 23 and 18 points, respectively, for Woodburn, which also got 10 points from Figueredo. Senior Brysen Kachel led West Albany with 18 points.
Woodburn took both meetings against West Albany (14-4, 9-2) this season, winning at home 55-47 on Jan. 2.
-- Jeremy McDonald contributed to this report
Oregon West race
The power-packed 4A Oregon West Conference has a three-way tie for first place between No. 2 Philomath (14-4, 4-1), No. 3 Cascade (13-3, 4-1) and No. 6 North Marion (14-5, 4-1) after one round of league play.
Two-time reigning state champion Cascade, which lost at North Marion on Jan. 26, created the three-way logjam by going on the road for a 74-58 win at Philomath on Thursday.
The Cougars dominated the Warriors in the fourth quarter, going on 19-4 run to break open a game that had eight lead changes in the first half. It was Cascade's fifth consecutive win over Philomath, including a 61-52 victory in last year's state final.
Junior guard Kaiden Ford made six three-pointers and scored 25 points for the Cougars. Junior guard Landon Knox hit two three-pointers and added 20 points in the win.
Philomath got 22 points from senior Jacob Peters.
Plankenhorn gets No. 300
North Medford coach Scott Plankenhorn reached a milestone Friday by recording his 300th victory in his team's 59-57 win at South Eugene in a 6A Southwest Conference game.
Plankenhorn is 300-153 in 18 seasons with the Black Tornado, including 7-13 this season.
In Friday's win, North Medford outscored South Eugene 23-11 in the third quarter to take a seven-point lead. Senior wing Houston Klug scored 16 of his game-high 23 points in the second half to lead the Black Tornado.