High School Basketball

Churchill Defeats Rival Sheldon 73-62 At SHS

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Guided by a couple outstanding performances from PG Malik Morgan and G David Shedrick, the No. 2 ranked 5A Churchill Lancers gave the No. 4 ranked 6A Sheldon Irish their second loss in a row in front of their home fans 73-62.

“Man, it was exciting. We came out here played hard, played intense, played defense and just ran with it,” Shedrick said.

Sheldon simply could not stop Shedrick and Morgan from getting to the rim. Morgan’s killer crossover was putting Irish guards on skates all night long, while Shedrick consistently overpowered whoever had the unenviable task of matching up with him. The duo combined to score 51 points.

“I was just setting screens and they were finding me. When I had the ball up top, I had a lane a lot of times and I just took it,” Shedrick said.

Malik Morgan attacking the rim.
Malik Morgan attacking the rim. Photo by Corey Buchanan

Shedrick, Morgan and Churchill put on a scoring run of epic proportions in the second quarter. The Lancers astoundingly scored on every possession except for one the entire quarter.

“They got three offensive rebound three point shots in a row in the second quarter. That’s where they got the gap and then they sustained it,” Sheldon coach Daniel Clark said.

David Shedrick shooting free throws. Photo by Corey Buchanan
David Shedrick shooting free throws. Photo by Corey Buchanan

But it wasn’t only those two who were getting to the rim and drawing fouls. The Lancers shot 21 free throws on the night. However, they made just 13.

A silver lining in Sheldon’s loss was the improved play of G Jordan Alexander. Alexander, who was ice cold against South Eugene on Friday, scored 18 points, shot 6-8 from the field and hit a sensational buzzer beater at the end of the first quarter. Also, G Logan Davis bounced back from a similarly poor shooting night on Friday. Davis scored 14 points on 5-12 shooting.

Jordan Alexander bounces back from a tough game against South Eugene on Friday.
Jordan Alexander bounces back from a tough game against South Eugene on Friday. Photo by Corey Buchanan

Other than free throws, rebounding and turnovers forced a wedge in the scoring margin between the two teams. Sheldon grabbed five offensive rebounds, whereas Churchill pulled down nine.

“I think second chance opportunities is what turned it for them,” Clark said.

Though Sheldon only lost the turnover battle 9-7, it was its lack of forced turnovers that was most telling. The Irish came back against South Eugene utilizing the press. However, they had no such luck against the Lancers . When Sheldon did institute the press, Churchill’s fast and athletic guards navigated through the full court defense and scored easy buckets.

The victory marked the first time any current Churchill player has won at Sheldon High School.

“We always come in and play well the first half and then then we let them run away in the second half. This time we played well throughout the whole game,” Shedrick said.

“Before the game I told the seniors this is our last time playing at Sheldon. We have to go out with a bang,” he added.

Sheldon will look to end its two game losing streak at home vs. Grant on Friday. Also on Friday, Churchill will look to keep riding the victory train on the road against Marist.

Oregon Ducks Bulking Up The Defense

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Are you sick and tired of the Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team’s anemic defense? University of Oregon head coach Dana Altman just might have a concoction that will remedy this deficiency next year.

Altman is bringing in two players and will likely give playing time to one current player who can provide the necessary size, athleticism and defensive intensity to wreak havoc and shut down opposing players and teams.

Michael Chandler:

Chandler is a 6-foot-10, 225 point center.  ESPN described Chandler in 2011 as “a true center who clogs the lane on the defensive end of the floor.” “Chandler is a good area shot blocker and rebounder on both ends of the floor.”

Chandler reneged on his commitment to both Louisville and Xavier before attending the University of Central Florida. However, he was deemed academically ineligible in 2011 and decided to transfer to NW Florida State. He may not be a sure thing, but if he can get his head on straight, Chandler could really fill a need for this Ducks team that ranks 134th in the nation in opponent rebounding despite being a top 20 team in offensive efficiency.

Photo by 247Sports
Photo by 247Sports

Jordan Bell:

Bell is a 6-foot-7 power forward who qualified to join the UO team in early December, but is unlikely to play this year in order to save a year of eligibility. ESPN said last May, “Bell continues to impress with his high energy and awe inspiring shot blocking ability.” Though Elgin Cook has sporadically made some big time plays, UO does not currently have a serious defensive threat at the power forward position, let alone a guy who is deemed to have rare shot blocking ability according to a multitude of scouts. UO currently ranks 187th in the nation in blocks per game. ESPN also remarked regarding Bell, “He has becoming an outstanding rebounder in traffic due to his soft hands and bounce.”

Ray Kasongo:

Kasongo is described by ESPN as a good shot blocker and a good on ball defender. At 6-foot-9 he has more than enough size to match up with Pac-12 power forwards. If he can bulk up from his skinny 190 pound frame, he could become a quality defender for UO.

It’s difficult to tell who will truly make an impact at the D-1 level and who will fail to rise to the challenge, but at least there is more than a glimmer of hope that the Ducks will have a much improved defense in the coming years.

 

Prep Hoops Roundup 2-24-2012

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— Alex Shoemaker, EDN Sports

Lancers Take The Rematch Against Irish

Last Friday’s game definitely lived up to the hype. As was to be expected, this Churchill-Sheldon rematch shared all the excitement of their buzzer-beater match a month ago. Unlike the last time, however, it was the Lancers celebrating at the end with a 75-73 win over the Irish in overtime.

The 17-7 (14-2) Irish and 20-4 (13-3) Lancers have been the best two teams in the Midwestern League, and their two contests have been decided by a total of three points.

Sheldon came away victorious in the first contest, a 62-61 Dillon Miller deep half-court buzzer-beater, but with the Lancers riding the emotions of the home crowd and would not be denied. The Irish had a final possession where they could have tied the game and forced a second overtime, but it wasn’t to be.

“It was a great defensive stand,” said Churchill guard Aaron Ingram about his game-clinching steal. “I saw the ball and grabbed it. Then I just dribbled out the clock. A great team win.”

Ingram finished the contest with 10 points, with most of his contributions coming on assists and defense.

Churchill extended their lead to 15 in the third quarter, and the game appeared to be all but out of reach.  However,  a 10-0 run by the Irish to start the fourth quarter decimated the Lancers’ lead and the game was suddenly tied 55-55.

“We don’t pay attention to the scoreboard,” said Churchill head coach Kelly Bokn about the shifts in momentum. “Whether we’re up or down, we keep with our game plan. We lost our lead pretty quickly, and the credit goes to Sheldon. But we were able to keep the game close and come out with a W in OT.”

Churchill was led by David Shedrick who had 18 points, as well as 16 from Emmanuel Morgan.  Sheldon was led by the 18 points from point guard Dillon Miller and the 16 points from forward Dale Baker.

With the regular season now finished, both the Irish (6A) and Lancers (5A) can work on preparing for the OSAA playoffs, hopefully bringing a state championship back to Eugene.

The Irish graduate eight players after this season including three starters (Miller, guard Joe Bando, and Baker). Churchill only loses two seniors after this year (Ingram and backup Andrew Tupper).

Both teams have legitimate shots of making a deep run in the playoffs.

“I think we can go far,” said Ingram. “Obviously it’s just one day at a time, one practice at a time. We believe in each other. We can go far. We just need to keep practicing and not slow down.”

The coaching staff shares Ingram’s confidence and wants to make sure the team keeps focused on the task at hand.

“We don’t want to look to far ahead of ourselves,” said Bokn. “One game at a time. Anything can happen in any game. We don’t want to be caught off guard. There are a lot of good teams, and we think we can compete with the best.”

Around The Rest Of The League:

Marist Spartans: 13-10

The Spartans have finished their up-and-down season with maybe their most frustrating loss of the season. They lost three of their last four games and suffered a 45-26 blowout loss at Thurston in the finale.

North Eugene Highlanders: 9-14

North’s season is officially over, and the can rest their hats on a nice 59-51 victory over Willamette last Friday. It appeared the Highlanders would push for a playoff spot, but a 3-8 finish to the season put a damper on that.

South Eugene Axemen: 4-20

South’s horrific season is finally over. A 1-5 record over their past six games was actually an improvement on average for the season as a whole. The Axemen fell 81-47 last Friday in their season finale at Grant.

Willamette Wolverines: 8-16

The theme of the Wolverines’ season has been playing where you’re comfortable makes all the difference. Their home record of 4-6 is respectable, while their road record of 2-9 killed their postseason chances. With a young roster, the Wolverines can look to next year.

Prep Hoops Roundup 2-16-2012

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— Alex Shoemaker, EDN Sports

Generals Conquer Irish At Home, Snapping Sheldon’s Eight Game Streak

After a colossal 15-2 deficit against Grant, Sheldon mounted a huge comeback spanning the rest of the game.  Unfortunately for the Irish, it wasn’t enough as they fell just short the 6A powerhouse Generals 59-55 last Friday night. 

The Irish started the game incredibly shaky, especially point guard Dillon Miller who scored just three points in the first three quarters. Shots weren’t falling, and careless turnovers led to easy fast break points for Grant. That’s why it looked like the Generals were going to run away with it early.

The game changed midway through the first quarter when Sheldon trailed by 13. Big man Dale Baker (11 points) converted an old-fashioned three point play, and Grant senior Tre Battle was called for a technical foul. Sheldon’s Jordan Alexander then nailed both free throws to cut the deficit to just eight.

“Those free throws definitely helped,” said Irish coach Ron Lampe. “We needed some momentum to get us going. That was the spark we needed. Unfortunately we couldn’t keep it going all game.” 

Sheldon’s Connor Strahm did not put up his normally stellar numbers. He scored just 11 points, and was off on several shots.

“It was an off night,” said Strahm. “I think everybody was off. We weren’t playing good basketball. We can play better than this.”

The Irish could not stop Grant forward Chris Wells who finished the game with a team high 22 points. He scored the majority of his points in the key, as well as shooting 6-of-8 from the free throw line.

“We can’t get into foul trouble like that,” said Lampe. “They were making their shots and made us pay for putting them on the line. Those are free points.”

Sheldon bounced back on Tuesday with a 76-56 win at home against South Eugene. The Grant defeat was the first and only home loss of the 2011-12 season for the Irish, who finished with a home record of 9-1. 

At 17-6, the Irish play their final game at Churchill on Friday night. Look for coverage of that game next Wednesday at Eugene Daily News.

Around The Rim: What’s Up With The Rest Of The Schools

Churchill Lancers:

At 19-4, the Lancers are one of the most exciting prep teams in the Eugene area. Churchill has a prefect 8-0 home record this season, with just one game remaining. Churchill won both of their games this past week, blowing out North Eugene 94-54 and Springfield 68-44. They’ll end the regular season with a big playoff test when Sheldon visits on Friday.

Marist Spartans:

The 13-9 Spartans had an up-and-down week, losing 53-49 at Marshfield on Friday but bouncing back with a 61-58 victory over Willamette on Tuesday. Marist’s final game before the postseason is at Thurston on Friday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM. 

North Eugene Highlanders:

The Highlanders’ record has fallen to 8-14 after back-to-back losses to Churchill and Marshfield this past week. North’s final game is Friday night at Willamette with only pride on the line.

South Eugene Axemen:

With a 4-19 record, it’s safe to say that the Axemen have been the worst prep team in the Eugene area. This year, 14 of the Axemen’s 19 losses have been by double digits. Their season comes to a close on Friday at Grant. A win is almost out of the question, but keeping the game close could be a moral victory. 

Willamette Wolverines:

Willamette needed to come away with two wins over the past week, and unfortunately they came up short in both contests. Following a 58-50 loss at Thurston, the Wolverines lost their next game at Marist as well. The Wolverines now sit at 8-15 with their final game at home against North Eugene on Friday.

Prep Hoops Roundup 2-09-2012

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— Alex Shoemaker, EDN Sports
Irish Come Up With A Big Victory Over SpartansSheldon guard Dillon Miller came up with a huge performance last Thursday. That was more than enough for the Irish, as they easily blew out the Marist Spartans 75-42 on the road. 

Miller finished the game with 23 points, and contributed in all facets of the game.At his vital point guard position, essentially deciding the tempo of the entire offense, Miller has been instrumental in the huge surge of the Irish this season.Head coach Ron Lampe is very happy with the play of his senior captain.“Miller has been great,” said Lampe after the game. “He does everything I ask and more. He’s a great team player and we’re lucky to have him.”

The game was close through a quarter and a half when senior guard Sean Bellotti came up with a big block that completely changed the momentum of the game. Bellotti, son of former Oregon head football coach Mike Bellotti, has been a great contributor coming off of the bench.

Marist went into the second quarter with a 19-16 lead, but a one-sided second and early third quarter gave the Irish a 54-33 lead. After that, Sheldon never looked back.“We went on a good run there,” said Lampe. “We started hitting our jumpers as well as making smart passes and moving the ball. We didn’t want to have a shootout, but just play our style of basketball.”The Irish did just that, playing an up-tempo offense, and have been effective with that approach lately.After starting the season 2-4, Sheldon has gone on a 14-1 run (currently an eight game win streak) and have won most of those in convincing fashion. The Irish took care of business in their other two games this past week, blowing out North Eugene on the road 80-60 on Saturday and a 73-38 victory over Springfield.

The 16-5 Irish have secured a spot in the 6A playoffs. They can now either choose to rest up or try and improve their seeding. Sheldon plays Grant on Friday and South Eugene on Tuesday.

For the Spartans, their 12-8 record has them in the 5A tournament, but not at a very high seed. With two games this week against Marshfield (Friday) and Willamette (Tuesday), Marist could make a serious push with two likely victories.

Around the Rest of the League:

Churchill Lancers:


Churchill bounced back from a disappointing loss to Marshfield and swept their next three games in blowout fashion (margin of 30 points per game).  They cruised to winsover Willamette, Thurston, and Marist. The 17-4 Lancers are playoff bound and can rest for the next two weeks before the playoffs.  Churchill ranks No. 3 in 5A, and will play North Eugene and Springfield this week.North Eugene Highlanders:

At 8-12, North Eugene is close to taking its last breath. The Highlanders went 1-2 this week with a 15-point loss at Springfield, a 20-point loss against Sheldon,  followed by an 8-point win over South Eugene.North plays at Churchill on Friday, and then will be at home against Marshfield on Tuesday. North needs a sweep this week to have any shot at keeping their slim playoff hopes alive.South Eugene Axemen:

This was another bad week for South as they lost all three of their games.  Their 3-18 record and weak strength of schedule has them ranked 38th out of 43 teams in the 6A league.The Axemen will face Springfield and Sheldon this week, and they would do well to win one more game this season for momentum going into the 2012-13 campaign.Willamette Wolverines:

The 8-13 Wolverines are in a similar position as North Eugene. Willamette ranks a disappointing 26th in the 5A rankings, due to their poor OWP (opponent winning percentage).After an 86-41 blowout loss to Churchill on Thursday, the Wolverines bounced back with a much needed win over Marshfield.  The Wolverines play at Thurston on Friday and at Marist on Tuesday. They need to win both for playoff hopes and overall pride.Prep Game Of The Week:EDN will be live-blogging again.  This time, we’ll be at Sheldon on Friday night, when the Irish face the visting Grant Generals.  The game is a potential playoff preview of sorts, so stop by the website around 7pm to catch all the action.

Prep Hoops Roundup 2-2-2012

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— Alex Shoemaker, EDN

Game Of The Week: Sheldon Vs. Willamette

Sheldon has been on an absolute tear for the past two months, dominating their competition. The 13-5 Irish now have  nine wins in their past ten games and a five game streak.They took a 29-23 into halftime on Friday night against the 7-12 Willamette Wolverines, and it looked like it might be a game for once. But Sheldon pulled away in the second half on forced turnovers for a 59-38 victory.

Irish point guard Connor Strahm was highly instrumental in the win, forcing numerous steals and pushing the ball in fast break situations.

“I was feeling it tonight,” said Strahm. “It was a great team effort. We’re playing really good basketball right now and I like the way we’re playing. This team is well rounded and we work off of each other.”Senior captain Dillon Miller also had a big game, leading the Irish in assists.

“Both Connor and Dillon had good efforts tonight,” said head coach Ron Lampe. “This was just another team victory and everyone played a significant role. We’re on a hot streak right now and let’s hope we keep rolling.”
photo by Eugene Wesley, EDN

Sheldon uses an effective fast-pace offense that has the ability to wear down teams late in contests, as was the case against Willamette. With four of the five Irish starters also playing significant roles on the football team, conditioning is part of their identity.

“We’re fast down the court,” said Strahm. “We can outrun teams and play that way all game long. We don’t tire out. Coach Lampe has us ready to play each game.”

Willamette looked depleted in the second half, losing costly possessions on turnovers or miscommunication. The Wolverines held onto the ball too long on consecutive series in the third quarter, leading to forced shots at the buzzer“Our defense won us the game,” said Lampe. “We weren’t shooting well in the first half, but stepped it up in the second.”

photos by Eugene Wesley

Sheldon also took care of business on Tuesday night, defeating the Thurston Colts 50-37 at home. The Irish are in fantastic shape to close out the season in the next six games. A deep playoff run seems to be in the works. Their next game is this Thursday at Marist.


As for Willamette, their season has just about run its course. With five games remaining, the Wolverines can hope to close things out on a positive note, and begin working on next year.  Their next game is at Churchill on Thursday.One More Note On Sheldon At Marist

The Sheldon/Willamette contest has been selected as EDN’s Prep Game Of The Week.  Head over to our website at 7pm on Thursday, and catch all the action on the live blog. Should be a good time.Around the League

Churchill Lancers:

The Lancers only had one game this week, a 70-63 loss at Marshfield on Tuesday. The setback brought their record to 14-4. Churchill has lost two of its last three games, and have not had the same look they had earlier in the season.The Lancers will make the postseason, but going in with positive momentum is crucial. Their next game is Thursday night when they host the Willamette Wolverines.

Marist Spartans:

Marist’s week was a perfect representation of their season as a whole. The Spartans lost a 62-48 game at home against an inferior North Eugene squad on Friday night. On Tuesday, however,  they bounced back with a big 87-58 win over Springfield.

This team is nearly impossible to figure out, and looks different each time they take the court. Marist may have the toughest week of their season coming up.

They start their stretch on Thursday hosting Sheldon. Two nights later, the Spartans will visit South Eugene. Marist returns home against Churchill this coming Tuesday. The goal should be to win at least two of those three games.

North Eugene Highlanders:

The Highlanders only played one game this week and made it count. They shocked the world with a 62-48 blowout upset over Marist. Their next game is on Thursday at Springfield.

South Eugene Axemen:

Normally winning one of two games in a week isn’t something to cheer about. But for the 3-15 South Eugene Axemen, it is a cause for celebration. After a 67-50 blowout loss at Marshfield on Thursday, the Axemen bounced back with a 39-35 win over Willamette at home.

The win marked South’s first home win of the season, giving the fans something to take from the season. They do have a busy week ahead with there games upcoming, the first of which is a 7pm tip off against Thurston on Thursday.

Super Bowl Will Have ‘Ducky’ Feel To It…

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

Spencer Paysinger (pictured left) has 11 tackles for the Giants this year. (Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

We’ll get to the men’s Civil War basketball game in a minute.  In the meantime, you didn’t ask me for this piece of information, but whomever wins the Super Bowl on Sunday will result in a former Oregon player getting a ring.  That’s right, the big game in Indianapolis will have a ‘Ducky’ feel to it.

On the New England side, there is safety Patrick Chung.  One of the best defensive backs in Oregon history has performed admirably at the pro level.  He’s made a lot of big plays for the Patriots with an interception here or a special teams play there.

Patrick Chung has a knack for making plays for the Patriots. (Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

However, Spencer Paysinger has also quietly established himself with the New York Giants in his rookie season. The ex-Duck linebacker has 11 tackles this year, and should make a lot more before it’s all said and done.

Thus, with both teams having a U of O alum on their roster, I can neutralize that as a reason to take one side over the other.  So let me tell you how I see this coming out in objective fashion.

On paper, it looks like the Patriots will roll in this one. They remember how the Giants ruined their undefeated season in that Super Bowl a few years ago, and a lot of people will tell you it’s not smart to bet against Tom Brady.  Furthermore, the Giants snuck into the playoffs with  a 9-7 record.

Ahhh, that’s where it gets interesting. Sure, the Giants didn’t have the prettiest of regular seasons.  Nonetheless, they won when they had to and they seem to be playing their best football at the right time.

The matchup between Brady and Eli Manning is a compelling subplot to this story, too.  Brady has won three Super Bowls, and will undoubtedly go down as one of the five greatest quartebacks of all time.

Meanwhile, Eli Manning has lived in the shadow of his big brother Peyton for years.  People sometimes forget that he, like Peyton, also has a championship ring on his finger.  If he wins on Sunday, it’ll mean he’ll have two in his collection. (Trust me, big brother will trade in his records for that honor).

So how does this play out?  I see a tough battle and, having a lot of friends who are Patriots’ fans, it would be easy for me to say I’m rooting for a good game. Admittedly, my head is saying ‘New England’ while my heart is saying ‘New York.’

Jared Cunningham led OSU with 27 points. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

But I’ll go with the latter this time.  This one will go back and forth and history will repeat itself.  The Giants upset the Patriots once more 28-24. 

Now let’s talk about that Civil War game. These match ups have gotten more competitive in recent years, and the one at Matt Arena definitely went down to the wire. But who saw this coming?  Oregon State beating Oregon 76-71?  I certainly saw a tight affair, but thought the Ducks would take it.

A big reason for the Beavers’ upset was the 27 points from Jared Cunningham. He’s become their playmaker, and hit some crucial three-pointers down the stretch.

“It’s our rival school and it was a big game with a great crowd, ” said Cunningham afterwards. “We had a lot of Beaver fans out there.  I think we turned the corner with this win, especially with it being the Civil War game. It means a lot to Beaver nation.”

OSU may have turned a corner on their season, indeed. They’re now 4-5 in Pac-12 play (14-7 overall), and made a statement by beating their arch-enemies on their own floor. If they can perform like this the rest of the way, there might be a few more shockers before it’s all over.

Dana Altman said his team has work to do on the road. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

For Oregon, however, the feeling has to be very bittersweet. Yes they’re still very much in the Pac-12 race with a 6-3 conference record (15-6 overall).  But the Ducks didn’t play like a contender over the weekend.

Oregon sputtered around in the first half, and some of their mistakes finally came back to bite them in the second.  Devoe Joseph did his part with 26 points, but received little help. Still, he argued it wasn’t lack of scoring that did his team in.

“It was more about defense and turnovers than offense,” Joseph explained. “It is disappointing. Any time you play at home, you expect to win. But we weren’t aggressive. It’s what we didn’t do, not what they did.”

He’s right. The two things that have been the Ducks achilles’ heel bit them hard against OSU.  Their inconsistency on defense was apparent as Cunningham and Ahmad Starks (who had 15 points) lit up the scoreboard. And you’re not going to beat many teams when you turn the ball over 23 times.  It’s something that Oregon will have to minimize when they head out on road against Colorado and Utah this week to keep their postseason hopes on track.

“We can’t lose home games and be in the huddle,” said Oregon head coach Dana Altman. “We have some serious work on the road this upcoming week.”

Whatever happens, the situation in the Pac-12 just got a little more interesting.  How it all winds up is anyone’s guess.

Now, here’s a quick item before I wrap this up. Last Friday, EDN launched a live blog for what we think is the biggest game in prep basketball.  We’ll be doing it again this coming Thursday night when Sheldon visits Marist.  Check out the sports section about 7pm that evening, and see how this game between two of the state’s best teams is covered.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.

 

Prep Hoops Roundup: 1-26-2012

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— Alex Shoemaker, EDN

Miller Drills Buzzer Beater For An Irish Win Over Lancers
Two of the state’s top teams went at it last Thursday evening. Churchill and Sheldon faced off and this one looked like it had all the makings of an OSAA  classic. It certainly met, if not exceeded, those expectations.
Churchill’s Malik Morgan put in an uncontested shot under the basket with less than five seconds remaining in the game to give the Lancers a 61-59 lead.  But that left Sheldon’s Dillon Miller plenty of time for a play of his own. He drove the ball down the court, and sunk a 35-foot 3-point basket as time expired to give the now 11-5 (7-1) Irish a 62-61 victory.

“It was something special,” said Miller after the game. “I wanted to drive the ball and get as close as I could – I’m glad it went in. This was a great game.” Miller had one the best performances of his career with 22 points, 15 of which came in the second half of the game.The Sheldon student section stormed the court and swarmed Miller in exuberance that you can only find in prep basketball.

“I was trying to make sure I didn’t get pushed up against the railings,” said Miller, who could have easily been injured in the post-game celebrations. “Luckily there were people between me and the wall and I didn’t get squished.

On the other side, Churchill’s Morgan made his last shot on a pass from his brother Emmanuel.  The latter finished the game with a team high 21 points, 18 of which came from the three point line.The game settled down after a rough start. There were three technical fouls in the second quarter by Churchill’s David Shedrick and Aaron Ingram, as well as the ejection of Sheldon’s Connor Strahm.  He was on fire while he was in the game, scoring 11 points in less than a full half of play. When asked about the ejection, Sheldon head coach Ron Lampe said he didn’t see why his star player got tossed.

“I didn’t see what Connor did,” said Lampe. “From what I heard, he just grabbed the ball from him (Ingram). We’ll take a look at the tape and go from there.”

It initially appeared that the absence of Strahm would play a big role in the game. After his ejection,  the Lancers scored six of the next eight points and all came from under the basket. However, Sheldon’s interior defense began to force multiple blocks and finished in a strong way.The Lancers were able to bounce back quickly, though.  After smashing South Eugene 78-50 on Tuesday night, they’re now 14-3 on the season. Moreover,  they’re still in a great position to compete for the OSAA 5A State Championship. Churchill’s next game is on January 31st at Marshfield.

After a sluggish start to their season, the win over Churchill moved Sheldon into first place in their division.  The Irish kept their momentum on Tuesday by edging Marshfield 49-40.  They’ll next play at Willamette on Friday.

But if you liked the action of last Thursday’s game, the rematch might interest you. The Irish and Lancers will meet again in the season finale on February 17th at Churchill.

Around the Rim: What’s happening with the other teams

North Eugene:

The Highlanders are on the outside looking in at playing in the state tournament after two frustrating losses.  North lost 76-70 at Willamette on Thursday night.  They followed that up with a 62-51 defeat at Thurston this past Tuesday. With a 6-10 record and eight games remaining , the Highlanders practically need to run the table if the wish to compete for the state championship.

North’s next game is at Marist on Friday evening. Tip-off is set for 7pm.

South Eugene:

Besides Springfield (more on them momentarily), the 2-13  Axemen have been the most disappointing team in Eugene prep basketball. There is no chance of post season action, so South can begin working on a run in the 2012-13 season.

South’s next game is at Marshfield on Friday.

Springfield:

Speaking of those Millers,  they weren’t very happy last Friday. They lost 62-56 at home against Marshfield that evening.  But they did show a glimmer of future hope on Monday, when they squeaked out a 73-70 win over Willamette. Now 3-12 on the season, they have no hope of any postseason action.  Still, with three juniors, a sophomore and a freshman starting, this team has plenty to look forward to next year.  Their next game is at Thurston on Friday.

Thurston:

The 5-11 Colts are struggling to find an identity. Thurston started the season at 0-5, then went on a nice 3-game winning streak to show some life. Unfortunately, they followed that up with a four game skid.

The fourth loss was a hard fought 52-46 affair against Marist last Thursday with Cameron Cook leading the team with 18 points.  That defeat essentially ended any shot of getting into the playoffs for the Colts.

But they may still be a dangerous team down the stretch. Thurston got back in the winning column after beating North Eugene 62-51 on Tuesday night.The Colts’ next game is on Friday at home against Springfield.

Marist:

As mentioned above, the 10-5 Spartans defeated Thurston 52-46 last Thursday night. Marist will likely enter the 5A tournament and compete with Churchill for that state title.

Their next game is on Friday when North Eugene pays a visit.

Willamette:

The Wolverines are now 7-9 after a 76-70 victory over North Eugene. Their next game is on the 27th against Sheldon.

Special Notice:

The Sheldon at Willamette game will mark a first for the EDN sports section.  We’ll be doing a live blog with photos and analysis beginning at 7pm.  Should be an interesting experiment, so head over to our website on Friday evening to check it out under the LIVE! link in the top right area.

Prep Basketball Roundup 1-19-2012

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— Alex Shoemaker and Sam Finley, EDN Sports

Sheldon Heating Up, Springfield Rebuilding

The Sheldon Irish could be the hottest team in OSAA basketball. After a shaky 2-4 start,  they’ve bounced back big by winning seven of their last eight (with the only loss coming at Lincoln on Saturday).  With all the talent on the Sheldon roster, it seemed obvious that they would eventually return to winning form.

On Thursday at Springfield, the Irish cruised for an easy 69-49 win with their athleticism fully on display. Despite a poor free throw shooting night by the Irish, only converting 13-of-22 attempts, their ability to drive the lane and convert on second and third shot opportunities buried the Millers quickly.

“I didn’t want to get into a shooting contest with them,” said Irish head basketball coach Ron Lampe about Thursday’s victory.  “We didn’t shoot well in the first half – just 9/24 from the field. We stepped it up in the second half and played better as a team.”

The Irish did just that. With a 31-21 lead, Sheldon went on a 10-5 run to open the third quarter to extend the lead to 15 points. In order to try and stop the bleeding, Springfield coach Grant McHill pulled all five players out and sent in five reserve players. The switch initially caught the Irish off-guard, as Springfield moved from relying on long-range shots all game to a more high-tempo offense and aggressive defense that forced numerous Irish turnovers. They went on an 8-2 run to close out the 3rd quarter. But Sheldon exploded offensively in the final quarter for 28 points, draining nearly every shot they took. Senior Dale Baker finished with a game high 24 points and was huge defensively with multiple blocks.

The 9 -5 Irish are in a solid position to make a run in the OSAA 6A playoffs this spring, and Lampe thinks he knows why it took awhile to get things right.

“Football,” said Lampe. “About 10 of our guys  play football.  We had fewer practices, fewer reps than everyone else. We’re starting to get on track.”

As for the 2-10 Millers, this is a rebuilding period.  With no Seniors starting, including a freshman starting at point guard, this team won’t have a lot to play for this season. But there’s always next year.

Churchill Is Ready For A Big Run but North Has A Tough Road Ahead

The Churchill Lancers defeated the North Eugene Highlanders 60-46 on Saturday in a game that was closer than the score would suggest. The teams traded baskets for the first three quarters with Churchill pulling away with the win in the fourth quarter.

While the Lancers dominated down low, what won the game for them was their ability to shoot the ball from the 3-point range. They hit seven three pointers in the game, five of them coming from junior guard Emanuel Morgan.  He finished the game with 22 points.What makes the Lancers so dangerous is that anyone one the team is willing and does shoot long-range shots. They play a style of basketball reminiscent of the Oregon Ducks from 2007 when they used a run and gun style of play. The guards, both Emanuel and Malik Morgan as well as senior Aaron Ingram are exceptional. They can drive into the paint and either dish it off down low, pass out to an open shooter in the corner or take it hard for a layup.

“We play hard,” said head coach Kelly Bokn. “We’re a tough team – a physical team.”

At their peak playing ability, the Lancers are nearly unbeatable. Meanwhile, the Highlanders are the most experienced and “aged” team in OSAA basketball. All five of their starters are seniors, and only four players on the team are not seniors. What makes North dangerous is that they don’t have one player they solely rely on. Austin Sand and Andrew Moore are both phenomenal guards, and Kyle Giubbini and Taylor Ingram are great post players.

At 6-8, with huge a win over Marist earlier in the year, it’s hard to fully make out this team. They have the potential to go on a huge run into the playoffs, but they have a difficult schedule ahead with rematches against Marist, Sheldon and Churchill.  (A 60-45 loss at Marshfield on Tuesday didn’t help matters).The Lancers, on the other hand, are already getting geared up for a playoff push. After a 91-57 win against Springfield on Tuesday,  their overall record is 13-2. Now comes a big test on Thursday. They’ll play at Sheldon in what is probably the top game in the state this week.Both teams like to attack the paint and get their opponents into early foul trouble, so look for a lot of turnovers, steals and free throws in the contest. The matchup of Churchill’s Ingram and Sheldon’s Connor Strahm will be the matchup to watch.

“We believe in ourselves,” said Bokn. “Let’s see how far we can go.”

Games To Watch For This Week

  • Churchill at Sheldon:  As stated above, this is probably the game of the week. Two of the best teams in the state will go at it Thursday evening.  Tipoff is set for 7pm.
  • Thurston at Marist:  A case of two schools heading in opposite directions on Thursday night. The Colts are struggling this year with a 4-10 record.  On the other side of the coin,  Marist sits at 9-5, and is looking to assure themselves a playoff trip. Tipoff is at 7pm.
  • Willamette at North Eugene: The Wolverines and Highlanders are batting on Thursday to salvage their seasons.  Willamette (6-9) and North Eugene (6-8) both have losing records, but the OSAA playoffs are not out of reach for either team. It’ll simply require a little luck and a lot of wins.  Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm.
  • Lincoln at South Eugene: Can the Axemen catch a break? No.  South Eugene (2-12) got hammered by Sheldon 90-39 this past Tuesday night, and the Lincoln Cardinals won’t make life any easier on Friday evening.  True, Lincoln has an overall 8-9 record, but they’re coming off two consecutive wins against Sheldon and Thurston.  Tipoff is at 5:30pm.
  • Marshfield at Sheldon:  A few days after the Irish host Churchill, they’ll face a stiff challenge on Tuesday.  The 9-5 Marshfield Pirates are coming to town, and will probably have momentum after they play at Springfield on on Thursday. Not saying Springfield won’t win against Marshfield, but it’s unlikely they will.  Could be a pivotal game for both teams. Tipoff is at 7pm.

A New Chapter Begins….

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

We knew it was likely, and now a new chapter begins for Oregon football.  Mere days after the Ducks’ Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin, star running back LaMichael James made it official on Friday by announcing that he would forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.

LaMichael James is taking his talents to the next level. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

“It really was a difficult decision,” said James. “Especially after winning the big game and sharing that moment with my teammates. It was kind of like that you don’t want to go out another way.”

The 2010 Doak Walker Award winner rewrote the record books during his three years as a Duck. He’s scored the most points with 348, and his 58 touchdowns are the most overall. For that matter, his career 5,082 rushing yards rank second all-time in Pac-12 Conference history. Still, with all he’s accomplished, James said it was a tough choice to walk away from people he now considers family.

“I love my (running backs) coach (Gary Campbell) to the end and I’ll always be a part of his life,” he explained. “That, and not being in the locker room with my teammates will be very difficult for me.”

LaMichael James will finish as Oregon's all-time leading scorer and rusher. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

In the end, however, he believes there’s not much more he can accomplish playing in college. That, and he’s only a couple courses away from graduating.

“Ultimately, it came down to almost having my degree,” James stated. “I’ve also achieved just about everything that I possibly can at this level. I could win the Heisman or the BCS Title, but that’s just not likely. I feel like I’m going out with a bang.”

Now that he’s officially decided to go pro, James is excited to be able to have a chance at doing something only so many can consider a legitimate possibility.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “I’ve thought about playing in the NFL all my life. Who wouldn’t? I’m glad I can come a step closer to accomplishing those goals.”

James considers the chance to play on Sundays a dream come true. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

He’ll soon hire an agent, and will begin training for the February scouting combine in Indianapolis.  With any luck, the 5’9, 195 pounder hopes he can defy the logic of where he’ll finish in the draft.

“The draft advisory board told me I could be picked as high as the third round,” he clamied. “Right now, I’m hoping to go in the second round depending on how I perform at the combine.”

With all the stuff he’s preparing for in the next phase, James hasn’t had much time to look back at the standard he’s set at Oregon. Unquestionably, though, he’s raised the bar for future Ducks and is proud to have played in Eugene.

“It’s probably the best time I’ve ever had in my life, he explained. “It has taught me a lot of different lessons, and I think the credit has to go to head coach Chip Kelly as well as coach Campbell. I’ve never really been on a resilient team where everybody puts the team before each other and there are no independent superstars. This year’s team that won the Rose Bowl was the best by far where teammates are concerned.”

LaMichael hasn't had the chance to look back at his many accomplishments at Oregon. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Now the guy who is, arguably, greatest running back in Oregon history is ready to take on the challenges of the NFL as easily as he dodged so many opposing defensive players at Autzen Stadium.

“I feel like I can be successful at the next level,” James said. “After that, I feel like I’ll be successful at whatever career path I choose.”

For the record, I think LaMichael could surprise some people in the pros. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll be an every down back, but could definitely make an impact as a situational player or on special teams.

The Oregon running game will also move along fine with Kenjon Barner, De’Anthony Thomas, and Tra Carson still in the stable.  By the same token, there will never be another guy moved the way James did. There may also not be another one who could stay so humble no matter how brightly his star shined in the Willamette Valley.

From a reporter’s standpoint, he was always willing to answer my questions in a respectful manner.  I wish him the best and hope I can get a word in with him from time to time wherever he winds up.

Now then, let’s move onto a few other items. First off, it is still very hard to get a good read on the Oregon men’s basketball team. The Ducks looked ready to take on the upper tier of the Pac-12 conference on Thursday with a solid 78-67 win against Stanford.

Dana Altman needs his Ducks to be a little more consistent if they're going to make the postseason. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, Oregon didn’t follow up on that performance on Sunday in a deflating 77-60 loss to Cal.  Head coach Dana Altman didn’t hesitate listing the reasons for the defeat.

“There were a number of things we needed to work on,” he said. “We had the opportunities, but we gave up easy baskets. The tempo favored Cal in the second half and they had it going for them.”

No question about it.  The Ducks battled the Bears for 20 minutes, and only trailed 30-27 at halftime.  Then Allen Crabbe got hot for Cal, scoring 26 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.  At the same time, Oregon simply couldn’t match them shot for shot.

But perhaps the real reason the Ducks dropped a tough one at Matt Knight Arena was the inconsistent play of Devoe Joseph.  The 6’4 guard could do no wrong against the Cardinal when he led all scorers with 30 points.

Yet on Sunday, Joseph had trouble getting it going early and only had five points in the first half (and a total of 14 on the night).

If this talented, but young, Oregon team is going to find its way into postseason, they’ll need to get some more consistency from Joseph as well as get a little tougher on defense.  This coming week will be a challenge for them as they head on the road to play the Arizona schools.

Should they get a split on that trip, they might just keep themselves in the race for a very reachable Pac-12 title.  I certainly like the potential of this team. If they can play like they did against Stanford, then they’ve got a very decent shot at getting Oregon’s first NCAA bid since 2008. But they’ve got to clean up their mistakes sooner than later.

When it comes to the Oregon women’s basketball team, however, I’m not as sold. Sure, those Ducks have an overall 9-7 record, but are 1-3 in Pac-12 play. Moreover, they games they’ve lost haven’t been close.  They got pasted 90-67 on Saturday against Cal, and were walloped 93-70 two night prior at Stanford. (Though, in fairness, almost everyone loses badly to the Cardinal these days).

For Oregon to have any chance to be successful on a given evening, they’ll need to have both Nia Jackson and Amanda Johnson healthy. They recently got back Jackson, but Johnson is still out with an injured thumb.

Thus, for an otherwise very young squad, wins are going to be very hard to come by. If anyone can eventually turn this program around, head coach Paul Westhead is more than capable. But it looks like season number three of the rebuilding project is going to be a very long one indeed.

Switching to the prep level, the Sheldon boys seem to be putting things together. On Thursday, the Irish prevailed over Marist 66-64.  They’re now 3-1 in the Midwestern League play, and it looks like head coach Ron Lampe has another solid squad on his hands.  Time will tell as the season goes on, but with Connor Strahm and Dillon Miller as spectacular on the court as they are on the gridiron, you’ve got to like their chances down the stretch.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.