Clackamas' Dylan Mogel drives against Nelson's Ella Schackleton (24) and Lainey Day (13). (Photo by Fanta Mithmeuangneua)
Clackamas' Dylan Mogel drives against Nelson's Ella Schackleton (24) and Lainey Day (13). (Photo by Fanta Mithmeuangneua)

HAPPY VALLEY – On a night when their shooting touch turned ice cold, the No. 1 Clackamas Cavaliers leaned on their defense to move into a first-place tie in 6A Mt. Hood Conference girls basketball.

The Cavaliers (8-2, 3-0) missed their first 17 three-point attempts – most of them wide open – but compensated by holding No. 10 Nelson to six points in the first half on their way to a 55-31 road win.

“Obviously not our best shooting game, but our defense saved us,” Clackamas junior forward Jazzy Davidson said. “We were kind of surprised how open they were leaving us. It almost hurt us being so open because we're used to getting guarded more closely. We were just kind of out of rhythm.”

Clackamas and Nelson (11-2, 2-1) entered the night tied in the conference standings, a half-game behind Barlow (8-6, 3-0). The young Hawks, whose only previous setback was a nonleague loss at Grants Pass, were eager to match up against their neighborhood rival.

But the Cavaliers smothered Nelson, forcing waves of turnovers, and gradually pulled away by converting in transition and taking the ball to the basket. Clackamas led 10-2 after one quarter and 31-6 at half, getting a buzzer-beating three-pointer from junior guard Dylan Mogel before intermission, its first triple of the game.

“Especially because we weren't shooting well, we needed to find other ways to win this game, because they're a good team,” Clackamas junior guard Allie Roden said. “Like we always say in our locker room, 'Defense wins games,' and that was our mentality tonight.”

Davidson matched her state-leading scoring average with 28 points and had seven rebounds. Roden added 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds for the reigning state champion Cavaliers, who extended their winning streak against Oregon teams to 32.

The game was a hard lesson for Nelson, which scored 188 points in its previous two games and entered averaging 61.2 points per game.

“We weren't doing what we were supposed to do,” Hawks freshman post Love Forde said. “It all came down to us slowing it down and running the plays that our coach was calling. I think that's really it. We're still working on it.”

Nelson eventually settled down and began working the ball inside to the 6-foot-1 Forde, who scored 12 of her team-high 18 points in the second half. She used her size and strength to get deep position, often holding off double-teams, and finished with a soft touch.

“It's a steppingstone,” Forde said. “We know what we can do, but we just need to get more consistent. I said earlier that this is going to be our gauge for where we are. And now we know where we are, and we're going to go back into that gym and we're going to work our butts off.”

Davidson was impressed by the play of Forde.

“She's so young, it's honestly scary because she's a freshman and she's already dropping 18 on the No. 1 team,” Davidson said. “It's awesome to see. It's really cool because I feel like once we leave, we'll get to come home and watch her dominate. She's really strong.”

Nelson starts Forde alongside two sophomores, one junior and one senior.

“If they keep getting better, the sky's the limit for them,” Davidson said.

Clackamas is firmly established as the team to beat in 6A, holding wins over No. 2 Willamette, No. 4 South Medford and No. 5 Benson. But with only 10 games under their belt, the fewest in 6A, the Cavaliers are still rounding into form.

“We don't need to be where we need to be until March, so we're just going to keep working on it every game and keep getting better,” Roden said. “Where we want to be is the Chiles Center.”

Clackamas will play for sole possession of first place Friday at home against Barlow. The Cavaliers also get a test Wednesday when they play at Washington power Camas, a team they defeated 72-53 at home Dec. 22.