HILLSBORO -- The last time Philip Vesel and Bart Valentine shared the sideline was when they coached together at Warner Pacific College.
On Thursday afternoon, the coaches found themselves on the same court again, this time pitted against each other in the consolation round of the Les Schwab Invitational at Liberty High School.
The result went in favor of Valentine and Columbia Christian as the Knights pulled away in the second half to defeat Southridge 82-71.
“It’s an honor to coach against him,” Vesel said. “He’s a great man and a great coach. Obviously I don’t want to be on the losing end, but he’s got a great team and a high-level player that single-handedly beat us.”
That player was 6-foot-8 sophomore Ben Gregg, who put on one of the performances of the tournament with a triple-double of 36 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists.
“I kept a mindset and kept attacking and looking for my shot more than I did yesterday,” Gregg said. “I was kind of passive yesterday so I wanted to be more aggressive with my shot and driving to the basket.”
Despite being only a sophomore, Gregg already is on the radar of schools such as Arizona, Gonzaga, Texas, and Oregon State.
“That kid is an amazing player, and I don’t think that our guys respected that because he’s a two-way guy,” Vesel said.
Southridge (6-3) was led by senior Brock Henry, who finished with 29 points and five rebounds.
The Knights (9-1) needed to bounce back from a 62-42 defeat to Gonzaga Prep on Wednesday night, and according to Gregg, it was important to set the tone.
Columbia Christian used its athleticism and height to spark its offense. The Knights jumped out to a 9-3 lead in the first three minutes of the game.
“We needed a jump on them to prove that we weren’t going to back down to them, and I thought we did that in the first quarter with a big lead,” Gregg said.
Added Valentine: "We came out with a lot of fire."
The Skyhawks showed fight in the second quarter. They climbed back into the game and even took the lead after Henry hit a three-pointer to put the Hawks up at 24-22.
They were able to upset the Knights by forcing turnovers and moving the ball on offense.
“We’re trying to give some of our sophomores a little more run and they competed hard,” Vesel said. “I think the physicality of the game sometimes is a little much, but I was pleased. I thought in stretches some guys did some nice things.”
In the second half, the Knights showed a renewed sense of effort and energy, using a 10-0 run in the first three minutes of the half to take a 49-34 lead.
The Hawks would pull to within 10 again in the fourth quarter, but that is as close as they would get for the remainder of the game.
Valentine, who has lost only five times in his three seasons as the head coach of Columbia Christian, said that playing in the Les Schwab Invitational is a good challenge for his team.
In fact, Columbia Christian is the smallest school to ever take part in the holiday tournament with an enrollment of just 101 students.
“I tell you, not only are we a small school, but we’re really young,” Valentine said. “We don’t see this level of defense a lot. It’s an honor for us to be here and I thought that we showed that we belonged here.”
Gregg said that playing in the tournament "is good because now we’re used to playing older and better teams, so when we get back to our league, it will not be as hard, and hopefully we can win state.”
One thing that Vesel wished had been better from the Skyhawks perspective was the team's energy.
“It’s not good,” Vesel said. “You can’t be a team that picks your spots to play hard and that’s why we are where we are.”
Coming off a 67-45 loss to Lake Oswego, Vesel was looking for his team to bounce back. He acknowledged that he saw that in spurts, but it just wasn’t good enough.
“We have to be a player-led team and we've got to find some of those leaders who want to step up and hold guys accountable to playing hard all the time, not just sometimes," Vesel said.
Next up the Skyhawks take on either Grant or Tigard at 10 a.m Friday. The Knights will face the team that the Hawks don’t at 1 p.m Friday.
“I was disappointed in our effort,” Vesel said. “We came out flat and we’re not really connected right now. We don’t dig in very well. Those were some of the things that I was worried about and this was the kind of tournament that reveals them.”
Kyle Pinnell is a junior at Southridge