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Riverhawks hold off Linn-Benton, 80-77

January 10, 2019

WINCHESTER — Just win baby.

The Umpqua Riverhawks own a pair of close victories to open the Northwest Athletic Conference Southern Region men’s basketball season, and hold a share of first place in the standings.

Umpqua’s latest triumph, an 80-77 decision over Linn-Benton of Albany Wednesday night at home, took the full 40 minutes to lock up.

The Riverhawks (9-6, 2-0 South) weren’t able to celebrate until Linn-Benton’s Taylor Jensen missed a running 3-point attempt from the top of the key at the buzzer. That came after Umpqua guard Brock Gilbert missed two free throws with 3.1 seconds left, blowing an opportunity to clinch the win.

“It was a good win for us,” said UCC sophomore guard Connor Shaw, who scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half. “They’re a good team, but we made it hard on ourselves towards the end, missing free throws and giving that kid (Riley Davis) a 3-point shot when he got fouled. We didn’t make it easy, but we’ll walk away with it.”

Yes they will.

“We had our chances,” admitted sophomore guard Eric Klekas, the game’s top scorer with 22 points. “We could’ve got more defensive stops, that’s why we didn’t put them away. But we got enough to win.”

The Riverhawks outshot and outrebounded the Roadrunners (8-6, 2-1), finishing .567 (34-for-60) from the field and grabbing nine more boards. Umpqua held a 44-30 advantage in points in the paint.

But there was a huge difference at the free-throw line, where Linn-Benton got 32 attempts compared to just nine for UCC. The Roadrunners failed to cash in at the charity stripe, though, missing 14 times. LBCC shot .476 (10-for-21) in the second half.

“Anytime you put yourself in a position to win the game in the last two minutes on the road against a quality team like Umpqua, that’s all you can ask for,” Linn-Benton coach Everett Hartman said. “When you lose a three-point game you have to make your free throws. That’s really what it came down to, was missing those free throws.”

Klekas, who had 13 points in the first half, hit three of Umpqua’s eight 3-pointers. Shaw added five rebounds and four assists in a solid all-around performance, while John Morrill-Keeler contributed 10 points before fouling out with 6:11 remaining.

“For whatever reason this season, we’re not able to get to the foul line as much as our opponents,” Umpqua coach Daniel Leeworthy said. “It’s a big issue for us and we’re trying to fix it.”

But Leeworthy was proud of his club for holding off the Roadrunners in Umpqua’s league home opener.

“Linn-Benton is a very quality team, one of the most physical teams in the region,” he said. “They’ve got length and size at every position, and they’re deep and play a lot of guys. We responded to it pretty well.

“We did a very good job rebounding and got the job done in the end. We’re maturing as a team, we’ve learned how to win close games. That proves to be very beneficial for us moving forward.”

The Riverhawks got some key contributions from their bench, with five players combining for 26 points.

Gilbert had eight points, including two 3s. Oakland High product Cameron Benzel chipped in seven points, five rebounds and two blocked shots in 22 minutes, and Tucker Peterson had seven points and two blocks in 19 minutes.

“Our bench was big,” Shaw said. “Tucker (Peterson) came in and made some big plays for us, and the big guys did a good job.”

“Multiple guys stepped up,” Leeworthy said.

Nicholas Wolff led the Roadrunners with 20 points and six rebounds. Jensen scored 18 points and made five steals, while Davis and Everett Brandt each had 15 points.

Linn-Benton was missing its leading scorer, sophomore Bailey Evers, who’s sidelined with a broken wrist.

Next up for Umpqua is third-ranked Clackamas (12-2, 2-0) at 4 p.m. Saturday at home. The Cougars, who didn’t play Wednesday, are averaging 105 points through two league contests.

“Coach (Leeworthy) has a 12-hour rule. We’ll celebrate tonight and then we have to get dialed in for Clackamas,” Shaw said. “That’s a big game for us. We want to protect our home court.”

Klekas said, “Clackamas is real athletic. They have five guys who can put the ball in the hole. We’ll have to come ready to play.”

LINN-BENTON (77) — Nicholas Wolff 9-15 2-2 20, Jensen 6-10 4-5 18, Davis 5-7 5-8 15, Harvey 2-6 0-0 4, Ismay 0-4 0-1 0, Morton 0-2 1-2 1, Cullison 1-3 0-0 2, Chahal 0-1 2-2 2, Wilmes 0-2 0-2 0, Brandt 4-5 4-10 15, Kurahara 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 27-57 18-32 77.

UMPQUA (80) — Eric Klekas 8-14 3-3 22, Shaw 8-15 0-1 18, Martin 0-2 0-0 0, Mortensen 2-6 0-0 4, Morrill-Keeler 5-9 0-0 10, Gilbert 3-5 0-2 8, Campbell 0-0 0-0 0, Sutton 1-1 0-0 2, Benzel 3-4 0-1 7, Peterson 3-3 1-2 7, Marz 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 34-60 4-9 80.

Halftime — UCC 38-36. 3-Point Goals — LBCC 5-16 (Brandt 3-3, Jensen 2-4, Davis 0-2, Wolff 0-4, Ismay 0-1, Cullison 0-1, Chahal 0-1), UCC 8-19 (Klekas 3-7, Shaw 2-4, Martin 0-2, Morrill-Keeler 0-1, Gilbert 2-3, Benzel 1-2). Total Fouls — LBCC 16, UCC 22. Fouled Out — Morrill-Keeler. Rebounds — LBCC 23 (Wolff 6), UCC 32 (Mortensen 6). Assists — LBCC 8 (Jensen 3), UCC 12 (Shaw 4). Turnovers — LBCC 13, UCC 14.

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