Centennial defends its home court edge, 69-65

The Eagles use a big fourth-quarter rally to beat South Salem
By Cliff Pfenning,

Heading toward the top-heavy Mount Hood Conference, the Centennial Eagles needed to regain some momentum on their home court after a disappointing loss Tuesday to Beaverton. They took care of that Friday night.

Trailing South Salem 60-54 midway through the fourth quarter, the Eagles responded with several stellar defensive stands and ran off a 17-2 run on the way to a 69-65 win in non-conference boys basketball action at Centennial.

Cam Croonquist led the senior-dominated Eagles with 19 points, including a 3-point basket with 1:05 left that gave Centennial a 63-62 lead. The Eagles made four of four free-throw attempts and got an inside score from 6-foot-8 senior Guy Powers to improve to 6-4 overall with another non-conference test set for 12:30 p.m. Saturday against Cleveland of the Portland Interscholastic League.

"This is a big win for us because one of our goals for this year was to not lose on our home court," Croonquist said. "We lost a tough game on Tuesday, but bounced back against a good team."

Beaverton rolled into the Eagles' gym Tuesday and left with a 70-62 win, a factor that played a role in the comeback from trailing in the fourth quarter.

"We were in the same situation Tuesday, in a close game and let them get away," Croonquist said. "When we were down, we reminded ourselves about our goals and that helped motivate us."

South Salem got 14 points from senior guard J.J. Ramos and 13 points from senior Kyle Atkinson, but fell to 8-5 heading into its Central Valley Conference opener at Sprague Tuesday night. The Saxons made one of their 11 three-pointers with two seconds left for the final score.

Winning at home will be a key to Centennial making any kind of noise within its league, which has three teams: Central Catholic, Barlow and David Douglas, ranked in the Top 10 in Class 6A. Friday's win could be a spark for the team as it prepares for league play, which begins Jan. 17 at home against Gresham.

Centennial, which moved up six spots to No. 24 in the 6A rankings, has has three road games before Gresham, and doesn't play one of the league's Big 3 until the following week.

South Salem, ranked No. 17, gave up its highest point total in three weeks, while suffering a fourth-quarter scoring drought that's been a key in its past three losses, all of which have been by eight points or less.

"That's a problem we've got to work on and get fixed because league play is here," first-year South Salem coach Tyler Allen said. "We can't expect to win games by scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter."

The Saxons lead the CVC in wins and are among the top 3 in rankings behind Sprague, No. 13, and North Salem, No. 16.



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