Central Catholic's Zamir Paschall (11) drives around Tualatin's Jemai Lake in Friday's semifinal. (Photo by Jon Olson)
Central Catholic's Zamir Paschall (11) drives around Tualatin's Jemai Lake in Friday's semifinal. (Photo by Jon Olson)

PORTLAND – In a game of wild momentum swings, top-seeded Central Catholic got the final, decisive push against two-time reigning champion Tualatin in the semifinals of the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 6A boys basketball tournament Friday at the Chiles Center.

The Rams drilled six three-pointers to build a 19-point lead early in the second quarter, fell behind by nine points in the third quarter, then rallied past the Timberwolves for a 73-67 victory that left both teams emotionally drained.

“I'm exhausted watching that game,” Central Catholic coach David Blue said. “I told our boys before the game, 'If you want to be the champion, you have to beat the champion.'”

As Tualatin started building a lead in the third quarter, the Rams had to do some soul-searching.

“We looked at ourselves, and listening to our coaches, we just had to come together and remember everything that we've been through through the year,” Central Catholic sophomore guard Zamir Paschal said. “And remember that we're stronger together.”

With the win over the Timberwolves (21-7), the Rams (26-3) advanced to the final for the first time since 2013. They will go for their first championship in 30 years Saturday when they meet No. 3 Roosevelt.

“Just staying humble, staying hungry,” Paschal said. “We're trying to do something that Central hasn't done in a while. We're playing with a chip on our shoulder because we still have doubters.”

Paschal came through with big plays on both ends of the court in the fourth quarter and finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.

He made two free throws and scored on a spinning move under the basket, then made a steal and fed junior guard Isaac Carr for a layup on a 6-0 run that put the Rams ahead 67-62 with 2:40 left, a lead they would not relinquish.

“I personally feel he's one of the best players in the state, no matter what grade,” Blue said of Paschal. “At halftime I said, 'You go out there and you lead us, you take over.' And he did that.”

Carr scored 17 points, senior guards Marley Zeller and Tony Angelo had 12 points apiece and junior guard Duce Paschal added 10 points for the Rams.

The win offset a gutsy performance by Tualatin senior forward Jaden Steppe, the lone returning starter available from last season. The 6-foot-8 Steppe, a Colorado State commit, had 23 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Steppe shot 7 of 17 from the field, including 4 of 7 from three-point range, while dealing with the smothering defense of 6-5 Duce Paschal.

“Jaden Steppe is really good at basketball,” Blue said. “But I'll tell you what, our guy, Duce Paschal – Jaden earned everything he got tonight. … He gave him fits all night long.”

Steppe scored 18 points in the first half to help Tualatin battle back from a 30-11 deficit to within 37-33 at the break. The Timberwolves took the lead midway through the third quarter and were ahead 52-43 when Steppe drew his fourth foul on an illegal screen with 2:05 left in the quarter.

With Steppe on the bench, the Rams cut the lead to 54-51 after three quarters. Steppe returned to start the fourth quarter, but Central Catholic scored the first six points to pull ahead 57-54.

“That was definitely a turning point because they didn't have any big threats by themselves, aside from him,” Zeller said of Steppe. “And we got our momentum back. It's a game of runs.”

Tualatin took its last lead at 62-61 on a three-pointer by senior Cole Javernick with 4:05 to go. The Timberwolves were within 67-65 on another Javernick three-pointer with 2:05 left, but could get no closer.

The loss ended a brilliant run for Tualatin, which reached the final four despite having two starters from last season – seniors Jayden Fortier and AJ Noland – sidelined with injuries.

“It's really hard,” Steppe said. “I felt like we had the game back. I'm really proud of everybody. Everybody just stepped up in a huge way with people out.

“You can't expect anything less than a championship, that's why it's so hard to lose.”

Tualatin sophomore point guard Jemai Lake scored 15 points, making two three-pointers.

With a win Saturday, Central Catholic would become the first school to win big-school titles in football and boys basketball in the same school year since Corvallis in 1983-84. The Rams defeated Tualatin in the 6A football final last fall.

No. 3 Roosevelt 73, No. 7 Beaverton 45: Feeding off the energy of their North Portland home crowd, the Roughriders (26-2) dominated the Beavers (18-10) to advance to their first final since finishing as 5A runners-up in 2007.

Senior guard Chance White made three three-pointers and scored 17 points to lead Roosevelt. Junior Owen Nathan had 14 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and two steals, senior Terrence Hill Jr. had 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists and senior Demir Johnson added four points and 11 rebounds in the win.

“The camaraderie we have out here is insane,” Nathan said. “Our community has just showed out to every single game for us. We can't thank them enough. With us coming together right now, we're looking real scary.”

Tied at 10-10 in the first quarter, the Roughriders reeled off the next 15 points to take control. Nathan hit two jumpers and White and senior Utrillo Morris made three-pointers in the run.

The lead stood at 38-17 at half after senior John Fernandis connected for a three-pointer. Beaverton got with 51-38 early in the fourth quarter but Roosevelt pulled away down the stretch.

Senior guard Aidan Rice scored 21 points and 6-11 senior Chance Winter had four points, seven rebounds and four blocks for Beaverton.

Roosevelt had a 47-28 edge in rebounds and held the Beavers to 30-percent shooting, including 5 of 29 from three-point range.

The Roughriders will go for their first state championship since 1949 on Saturday against Central Catholic.

“They're our friends off the court,” White said of the Rams. “But it's business now. … We've got to come out and punch first. We're looking to really give it our all and just go out with a bang.

“We've got a great support group in the North. We've just got to keep pushing, get one more. The job's not finished.