Damascus hands Golden Eagles loss

Shawn Simpson leads Nixyaawii with 23 points, but it can't prevent the 69-63 state defeat Thursday.

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BAKER CITY, Ore. - Shawn Simpson led Nixyaawii with 23 points and Isiah Case scored 22 points, but it wasn't enough as the Golden Eagles lost, 69-63, in Oregon Class 1A boys state play to Damascus Christian here Thursday.

The Golden Eagles played again today at 9 a.m. against Umpqua Valley Christian, which lost to Wallowa Thursday.

Nixyaawii hit 10 3-pointers - seven in the first half - to fight the Eagles to the very end.

Anthony Bonifer added 12 points and three assists for the Golden Eagles from the point guard position.

Leading the Golden Eagles in rebounding was Joe Crawford with eight.

Damascus had three players in double figures, led by Michael Gunderson with 22 points and 11 boards.

Nixyaawii fell behind 13-2 in the first three minutes of the game.

"Damascus jumped on us early," Nixyaawii coach Aaron Noisey said. "I could have prepared them better for the whole state tournament atmosphere. We were shell-shocked, but responded and hit some shots."

Back Nixyaawii came with a bucket inside by Ashton Picard and a hoop by Bonifer.

Then, four 3-pointers by Case, sandwiched around a trey by Simpson, in about two minutes to make it 21-15 Nixyaawii.

Damascus fought back with a hoop and two free throws by Gunderson, followed by a basket by Eric Rauch and a jumper by Matt Young.

Golden Eagles' Simpson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 24-24 at the end of the first quarter.

The game remained close into the half, with Damascus taking the 2-point lead, 39-37, at the break.

Bonifer scored six points, Simpson five and Case two in the second quarter to keep Nixyaawii close.

The pace slowed dramatically in the third quarter, with each team scoring just five points.

"We play better with the ball going up and down the court," Noisey said. "They were really patient with their offense, played ball control waiting for the open shot or drive to the hoop."

Picard, the 6-foot-6 post for Nixyawwii, also went out with a cut to the forehead at the 3:30 mark in the third quarter with Damascus up, 41-40.

While Picard was out for four and a half minutes, the lead increased to a six-point lead for Damascus.

"Without Ashton to patrol the middle and rebound," Noisey said, "it was difficult for us."

Nixyaawii never recovered as Damascus took the victory.

"We played great, the kids really played well," Noisey said. "We have nothing to be ashamed of. We've still got two games to win. We are not giving up."

Nixyawii needs to win two more games before losing again in the double-elimination tournament to finish fourth in state.

DAMASCUS CHRISTIAN (69) - Rauch 4-9 4-4 14, Waldie 8-12 0-0 17, R. Gunderson 1-4 4-5 7, Young 3-9 1-5 7, M. Gunderson 7-10 8-12 22, VanVactor 0-0 0-0 0, Clark 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 24-45 17-26 69.

NIXYAAWII (63) - Bonifer 6-14 0-0 12, Simpson 9-13 0-2 23, Crawford 2-10 0-2 4, Case 6-10 5-9 22, Picard 1-4 0-2 2, McKay 0-2 0-0 0, Sampson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-53 5-13 63.

Damascus Ch. 24 15 5 25 - 69

Nixyaawii 24 13 5 21 - 63

3-point goals - Nixyaawii 10-27 (Simpson 5, Case 5), Damascus 4-11 (Rauch 2, Waldie, R. Gunderson). Total Fouls - Nixyaawii 18, Damascus 12. Fouled out - Nixyaawii (Picard), Damascus (R. Gunderson). Technical fouls - none. Rebounds - Damascus 35 (M. Gunderson 11), Nixyaawii 26 (Crawford 8). Turnovers - Nixyaawii 9, Damascus 9. Assists - Damascus 12 (Young 9), Nixyaawii 9 (Bonifer 3, Crawford 3).

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