ONE DOWN, TWO TO GO
BAKER CITY There will be a new Class 1A boys basketball state champion this season.
Top-ranked and unbeaten Imbler went toe-to-toe with defending champion North Clackamas Christian School to open quarterfinal play in the OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires State Championships Wednesday afternoon at Baker High School. Imbler used a blue-collar effort to build a 14-point lead midway through the second period, and the Panthers (28-0) went on to earn a 68-55 victory.
Imbler faces ninth-ranked Ione in Friday's semifinals at 3:15 p.m. The winner advances to the state title game, set for 8:15 p.m. Saturday.
Ione upset second-ranked Crow 70-64 to move into the semifinals.
North Clackamas Christian was to play Crow in a loser-out game today at 9 a.m.
Imbler had to overcome early foul trouble by John McKinnis and Alan O'Donald. McKinnis was whistled for his second and third fouls within 30 seconds of each other late in the first period. O'Donald had two fouls in the first four minutes of the closely called contest.
Stepping in for extra minutes was Panther junior Max Nilsson, and he played a key role on the boards during his court time.
Imbler head coach Ken Kramer knew NCCS lacked size, but had a lot of quickness.
"It was a real concern. They are quick," Kramer said.
Imbler used a 10-0 run to lead 12-4 when Mc-Kinnis scored on a pass from Olan Fulfer, but NCCS was within five, 14-9, after one period.
Tanner McIntosh, who has had the flu for four days, scored twice after lobs to the low post against NCCS's 2-3 zone, then the 6-foot-7 senior blocked a Saints shot. Moments later, an O'Don-ald 3-pointer gave Imbler a 29-15 cushion. It was that little explosion Panther fans were anticipating and it finally came.
Three-pointers by Mc-Intosh and O'Donald pushed the Imbler lead to 39-21 at halftime.
NCCS shot only 24 percent from the field in the first half.
McIntosh has drawn lots of attention when he's on the low post all season, and he was often double- and triple-teamed. Most of his point production came when he played out front.
All 19 of McIntosh's points came in the first half.
The Panthers had problems scoring in the second half, but hit the offensive boards with a vengeance. During his quality minutes, Nilsson worked 10 rebounds five on the offensive end. He also had eight points.
"That's my job, getting in there and rebounding," Nilsson said after the game. "You always have to have control of the boards, especially against a smaller team."
"The bench came through tonight," Kramer said. "Max (Nils-son) did a great job.
"We were getting offensive rebounds. Our size hurt them, definitely," the coach added.
A 10-footer by McKinnis, who scored 18 points in just 20 minutes of playing time, pushed the Imbler lead to 49-30 late in the third quarter.
"I knew I'd have to play a little smarter on defense," McKinnis said of the second half. "I knew I had to be a little more productive on the offensive end as well as the defensive end. I got open and I got some good help from my teammates. They got me the ball."
NCCS crept back to within 12, 55-43, early in the final period. But during the next offensive series by the Saints, O'Donald and McIntosh blocked consecutive NCCS shots bringing the big Imbler crowd back to life, and putting life back into the Panthers' offense.
Imbler ran some time off the clock, and two free throws each by O'Donald and McKinnis gave the Panthers a 60-44 cushion.
NCCS got within 10 with :36 left, but could get no closer.
McIntosh had a double-double with 12 rebounds and 19 points; he also had three steals. O'Donald added 16 points and three assists.
Jestin DeAngelo paced NCCS with 22 points. Aaron Fahsholz added 12.
Fulfer 0 0-2 0, O'Donald 4 6-7 16, McKinnis 7 4-5 18, Tann. McIntosh 7 4-6 19, Campbell 1 2-2 3, Cline 0 2-4 2, Harder 0 0-1 0, Nilsson 3 2-3 8, Tay. McIntosh 0 0-0 0. Totals 22 20-30 68.
N. CLACKAMAS CHRISTIAN (55)
Fahsholz 4 2-2 12, DeAngelo 7 6-11 22, Whitmore 0 0-0 0, Porter 2 0-2 4, Meuser 1 4-6 6, Steffen 3 0-0 6, Spurgeon 0 0-0 0, Pacholl 1 1-2 3, Lindsey 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 13-23 55.
Imbler 14 25 16 13 68
N. Clackamas Chr. 9 12 17 17 55
3-point goals: O'Donald 2, Tan. McIntosh, Campbell; Fahsholv 2, DeAngelo 2. Total fouls: Imbler 17, NCCS 23. Fouled out: Campbell; Fahsholv, Porter.