Gresham — The game didn’t quite garner the last second excitement expectation that I had for it, but it was certainly packed to the brim with highs and lows, alongside plenty of notes and observations. Here are five takeaways from Round 1 between the Barlow Bruins and Clackamas Cavaliers:
- Barlow proves their state title contender status, Clackamas shows their need for growth and Eliza Buerk….
This is a classic example of experience coming into play in the primetime. Clackamas has the talent to win the state title, but their youth is a hurdle that they will need to overcome. Barlow is an experienced team that has been there and done that, playing in big games is nothing new to them. The Bruins opened up an 11-0 lead to start the game, then Clackamas fought back to make the game close again. However, Barlow never let the Cavaliers take the lead and ultimately led from coast to coast, shutting any sniff of a comeback at the front door. This type of performance is one of a state title contender, and Barlow certainly proved their status in the biggest moment of the season so far. The Cavaliers couldn’t execute consistently for longer than a few minutes, always leaving the door open for Barlow to open up the game again. Their youth isn’t a liability, but it is a hurdle that they will need to overcome to fight for a state title. It also doesn’t help that junior middle Eliza Buerk is injured, leaving her 6’3″ inside out presence off the floor. Once she gets back, her and Jazzy Davidson will be ready to roll.
2. Kennedie Shuler is the best player in the Mt. Hood Conference….
Talk about a hot take! Jazzy Davidson might be the one playing at Stanford in four years, but Kennedie Shuler currently owns the Mt. Hood as the best player in the conference. Shuler not only went face to face with Davidson, but she also straight beat her at her own game. Shuler’s aggressiveness is what makes her such a pleasure to watch: Outhustling on the boards, stripping the ball or forcing heavy pressure on defense, driving to the rack and drawing fouls, or pulling up for a quick jumper. Shuler was beating the Cavaliers on the glass as a point guard, and she ultimately beat them down the stretch at the free throw line. Kennedie Shuler is the queen of the Mt. Hood Conference until dethroned.
3. Both teams are excellent free throw teams….
One positive I can draw from both teams is their shared quality of excellent free throw shooting. Shuler won the game for Barlow at the free throw line in the final two quarters, and Clackamas kept themselves in it with free throws in the fourth quarter. Yes, both teams missed free throws that could’ve swung it either direction, but their efficiency was so good that the final quarter was pretty much a free throw contest for the win. Kudos for both squads on your efficiency from the charity stripe, it’ll definitely come in handy this season.
4. No one else should be within 20 points of these two in the Mt. Hood….
Watching these two beat up on one another was fun, and after analysis of their conference opponents, this should be the most lopsided league in 6A. In better terms, these two are so far ahead of everyone else that no one should have a game within 20 points of these two in conference play. Outside of a hot shooting team keeping things interesting, the spread of every game outside their second pairing would be over 20 points in favor of these squads. It also makes for plenty of time to tune-up, experiment, and improve in time for the next battle on February 2nd in Clackamas.
5. Round 2 will be a revenge game for Clackamas or a concrete sealing for Barlow….
The second edition of this battle takes place on 2/2/22, a magical day on the calendar. With that date alone, the rematch is destined to be even better than the original meeting. If Eliza Buerk is back, then Clackamas has better odds of winning the rematch than without her, she is a huge part of their inside game and really opens up the offense. Jazzy Davidson will need help from her team to pull it off, as the plan of Davidson carrying them to victory doesn’t work against the best in 6A. As for Barlow, Shuler will likely star again but face a stiffer challenge in the second round. If the Bruins can sweep Clackamas, it’ll be a concrete sealing on the potential that Barlow has to take the state title this season. If Clackamas splits, it just shows how even these teams are and how tight the race for 6A is in 2021-22.