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Bittle scores career-high 41 in Crater win

HILLSBORO — Nate Bittle didn’t shy away from the bright lights Thursday at Liberty High School.

Quite the contrary.

The 6-foot-11 Crater junior, one of the top boy basketball recruits in the country, put his wares on display at the prestigious Les Schwab Invitational, scoring a career-high 41 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking three shots as the Comets downed Clackamas, 71-54.

Crater is ranked third in Class 5A and upped its record to 4-1.

The Cavaliers (2-2) are tied for the No. 9 ranking in Class 6A.

The 16-team field has seven of the top 10 6A teams, as well as Churchill and Wilsonville, Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in 5A, and several national powers.

Included is the second-ranked 6A team, Jefferson, of Portland, which Crater plays Friday at 5:30 p.m.

College coaches have flocked to the event to view the talent.

Those on hand got an eyeful of Bittle.

“It was up there,” said Crater coach Chris Schmerbach of Bittle’s performance. “He was really good. That’s as good as he’s played. We’re always pushing to be better, and there’s things he could have done better, but he was ready to play.

“He was engaged, and he was out to kind of show some people some things, and he was able to do that, which was kind of cool.”

He showed some deft shooting, making 18 of 25 field goals, and range, making 4 of 10 3-pointers.

The game pitted two top recruits — 6-9 junior forward Ben Gregg of Clackamas was the other — and attracted a crowd.

“To have that many people in the gym for a 1:30 game was a pretty cool experience for everyone,” said Schmerbach.

Crater scored 22 first-quarter points and led 37-33 at halftime. The Comets pulled away in the fourth quarter, holding the Cavaliers to four points.

Bittle defended Gregg in the early going, but when the former picked up two fouls, 6-6 Crater senior Kruger Edwards took over on the Clackamas standout.

“Kruger did a nice job both at the end of the first half and in the second half, just making Ben work for what he had,” said Schmerbach.

When it was safe to put Bittle on Gregg in the second half, the Comet’s length proved bothersome to his foe.

“Overall, our team defense was really good tonight,” said Schmerbach. “Our guards did a really nice job of pressuring the ball. (Braydon) Ray had four steals and did his thing pressuring the ballhandler. (Jayden Vranes) was active in the lanes.”

Others, like Blake Eaton, Trevor Jaasko and Malakai Grant, did their part, too, he said.

Edwards had 10 points, six assists and five rebounds. Hunter Chubb scored nine points and had four boards. Vranes amassed 10 assists.

Gregg led Clackamas with 19 points and added five rebounds. He was 7 of 21 from the field.

CLACKAMAS (54): Horsley 2, Erickson 15, Gregg 19, Lewis 7, Baker 2, Keel 0, Mahler 6, Vorobets 1, Di’Grigorio 0, Newton 0, Jaha 2. Totals: 21-56 9-13 54.

CRATER (71): J. Vranes 5, Ray 3, Chubb 9, Edwards 10, Bittle 41, C. Vranes 3, Jaasko 0, Eaton 0, Grant 0, Anhorn 0, McIntosh 0. Totals: 30-52 3-3 71.

Clackamas1716174— 54

Crater22152014— 71

3-point goals — Clackamas 3 (Erickson 1, Gregg 2), Crater 8 (J. Vranes 1, Ray 1, Chubb 1, Bittle 4, C. Vranes 1).

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Nate Bittle, shown in an earlier game, erupts for 41 points as the Comets post a win in the Les Schwab Invitational.