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March 18, 2003

Redmond Wins First Ever Oregon Title

Yes, they do play basketball east of the mountains in Oregon.

Earning the first title for any school east of the Cascade mountains in the state since 1931, Redmond (OR) HS won the 2003 OSAA 4A State Championship by defeating Hillsboro (OR) HS, 50-47, in front of 6523 at Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

"This proves that there is competition on that side of the mountains," said Redmond star junior forward Maarty Leunen. "We proved that this year, and hopefully other teams have seen that you can do it if they just play hard ball like we do."

Redmond, which entered the tournament ranked #1 in the state, used stifling defense and ball control to take care of the Spartans, who had been the tournament's darlings thanks to their spirited play. The Panthers took control from the very beginning, working on getting the ball in the paint. Behind Leunen (eight points) and senior forward Sam Huston (10 points), the Panthers were in control, leading by six, 25-19 at halftime. Redmond had also managed to contain Hilhi junior point guard James Loe, who only had four points on 2-for-8 shooting in the half.

But Hilhi, who had been making comebacks all week long, was going to fight all the way until the end. Out of the locker room, the Spartans, behind Loe, went off on a 9-1 run to take a 28-26 lead midway through the third quarter. Redmond, which had used late third period runs to put away opponents in their previous three games, finally woke up and put together their own 7-0 run, capped off by a jumper from senior guard Joe Billings with 1:42 left in the period. But unlike Redmond's other opponents however, Hilhi would not wither away, and a Loe drive at the end of the quarter pulled the Spartans to within one, 33-32.

The teams were neck and neck in the early stages of the fourth quarter, before consecutive baskets by Leunen and Huston pushed Redmond's lead out to 40-36 with 4:35 to go. It's here that the Panthers started struggling with their free throw shooting. Redmond missed four consecutive free throws over their next two possessions, and a three-pointer by Hilhi senior guard Tomas Mosqueda at 3:05 pulled the Spartans to within one, 40-39. Redmond recovered as Billings converted on a drive, and a made free throw by Huston. But Hilhi came back again, as Loe found junior guard Vinny Zanrosso on the wing for an open three, and Hilhi was back within one, 43-42, with 2:05 left.

But that would be Hilhi's last gasp. Leunen converted on a drive, and after a Loe three-point miss, Billings was fouled and made both free throws. Loe came back and scored an acrobatic layup with 42 seconds to make it 47-44, but Redmond converted enough free throws down the stretch - grabbing the offensive rebounds when they would miss - to seal the title.

Leunen finished with 18 points and ten rebounds, his third double-double of the tournament. Huston added 13 points, and Billings had eight points, six rebounds, and six steals. Hillsboro was led by Loe's 18 points and six assists, but the point guard was limited to 3-for-10 shooting from behind the three-point line, 7-for-19 from the field overall.

"We wanted to make him earn his buckets," said Billings.

Redmond Oregon Champs

Redmond shot 44.4 percent (16-for-36) from the field, and survived despite shooting 46.9 percent (15-for-32) from the free throw line. Hillsboro was held to 37.8 percent (17-for-45) shooting overall, 22.7 percent (5-for-22) from three-point range.

Leunen and Loe were unanimous selections to the All-Tournament First Team, while Mosqueda made the All-Tournament Second Team. Loe led the tournament in scoring, averaging 24.3 points over four games.

Redmond finished the season with a 25-3 overall record, while Hillsboro completed the year at 18-13.

While the season didn't end with a win for Hilhi, it was an impressive run by the Spartans.

"Just getting here, that meant a lot," said Loe. "But they played a heck of a game."

And that was the bottom line as Redmond brought back home to Central Oregon their first-ever title.

"I couldn't be prouder of our kids," said Redmond head coach Kelly Bokn. "They've been so resilient all year. To be picked #1 and to have teams coming at you all the time... the kids came through."

Jed Tai is a Senior Writer with Hoopville.com

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