North Medford High wrestling coach Phillip Lopez isn't the type to get carried away.
CENTRAL POINT — Crater's chances of winning its first boys basketball state playoff game as a Class 6A school took a big hit about three hours before tipoff against the Tigard Tigers when Comets coach John Parent learned that leading scorer Cody Dismukes was suspended for violating a school rule.
The Comets fell behind early and could never quite reel in Tigard — especially without Dismukes — en route to a 62-41 loss Tuesday.
"I can't lie and say we didn't miss Cody," Parent said of the 6-foot-3 senior forward, who was averaging 14 points per contest. "It could have been a different game. But bad decisions lead to bad outcomes."
Tigard (19-7), the Pacific Conference undefeated champion, came into the first round playoff game riding a 14-game winning streak. The Tigers advance to play top-ranked Lake Oswego, a 93-48 winner over South Salem, on Friday with a state tournament berth at stake.
It wasn't the Tigers' leading scorer and conference player of the year, Evan Garrison, that hurt the Comets most, however, but a pair of juniors — backup wing Elijah Simon and guard Bryan Berg.
Simon entered the game when 6-7 sophomore post Joel Johnson was called for his second foul with 2:44 to go in the opening quarter. Crater's Connor Lane converted both free throws to cut the Comets' deficit to one point — the closest Crater (13-12) would ever get.
Simon's presence was immediately felt when the Tigers beat the Comets' press and the 6-3 wing went in for a fastbreak layup to begin an 8-2 run to end the quarter. Berg finished the period with a nifty drive down the lane to account for seven of his 10 points in the opening eight minutes.
"(Simon) is an athletic kid that gave us really good minutes," said Tigard coach Shawn Alderman, who has guided the Tigers into the state playoffs in 13 of his 15 years at the school. "(Berg) is an explosive player. He's had a real good year."
Berg averages 121/2 points and was a first-team all-league selection.
Crater trailed 24-16 at halftime and pulled to within 28-24 on RJ Morgan's 3-pointer with three minutes to go in the third.
Then Simon made his biggest impact by scoring on three straight Tigard possessions that helped spark a 9-0 spurt to end the period.
"That's my role to come off the bench and give us energy," said Simon. "They really keyed on Evan (Garrison) so I had to step up and give us some points."
Garrison, because of tough defense by Evan Erskine and Dean Orozco, was held without a field goal and scored all nine points on free throws in the fourth quarter.
"It's a real testament to our team that Evan (Garrison) didn't get a field goal and we were able to win," said Alderman. "They did a great job on Evan."
Simon finished with a team-high 14 points and grabbed six rebounds, while Berg had 10 points and six rebounds.
"(Simon) killed us," said Parent. "Every time he shot, I thought, he would make another one and Berg hit some big shots, too. We got down and we had to extend our defense and we got hurt on that."
Lane, a 6-7 junior, had 10 points and seven rebounds and Morgan pulled down 10 rebounds to go with seven points for Crater, which got to host the game by virtue of being the No. 16 team in the 6A power rankings compared to 17th for Tigard.
Seniors Anthony Martin and Erskine added eight points and seven points, respectively, for the Comets.
"We didn't really play as well as we usually do," said Lane. "We kept our heads high and didn't get on each other. We kept fighting back."
It came down to the Comets not making enough shots. Crater was 12-for-41 (29 percent) from the field, while Tigard shot 52 percent in the second half.
"The kids played their tails off," said Parent. "It was a battle of our size against their speed and quickness. We're big and slow and they took advantage of that."
Especially, Tigard's Simon and Berg.
TIGARD (62) — Berg 10, Kaelin 11, Chabreck 0, Schaer 4, Even 5, Simon 14, Garrison 9, Johnson 9. Totals: 22 16-21 62.
CRATER (41) — Lane 10, Martin 8, RJ Morgan 7, Erskine 7, Stewart 5, Bennett 2, Hintemeyer 2, D. Morgan 0, Marineau 0, Jaasko 0, Reiter 0, Orozco 0, Gustafson 0, Asher 0. Totals: 12 13-21 41.
Tigard 17 7 13 25 — 62
Crater 10 6 8 17 — 41
3-point goals — Tigard 2 (Even 1, Kaelin 1), Crater 4 (Martin 2, Morgan 1, Erskine 1).
Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or by email at email@example.com