Siletz Valley d Mapleton 68-66
Mapleton boys basketball had a bittersweet end to the regular season on Thursday night as the Sailors lost by two points to Siletz Valley in overtime. Still, according to Sailor’s coach Eric Wolgamott, it was the perfect way to go out.
“It’s everything you could ask for in a game: everyone playing well. Siletz is the number one team in the league, tied with Mohawk. And both of those teams we took to overtime in our place.”
The Sailors finish their regular season with a 9-5 league record. Two of those games were blowouts for Mapleton, a 30-60 loss against Mohawk and a 36-64 loss against Siletz.
“But if you look at the other three losses, it’s Eddyville by two, it’s Mohawk again in overtime, and then tonight’s game with Siletz in overtime. Basically, if you want to make it tough on yourself as a coach, that’s four points with three losses. It’s tough, but I’m proud of how the boys competed tonight, the way they played. It’s the best game they’ve played all year.”
There were only a few moments throughout Thursday’s game where one team dominated. The Sailors were up by 6 in the second half, but the lead was erased in less than a minute by Siletz with three well placed shots in quick succession.
In overtime, the Sailors were down by six, but were able to tie it up with two minutes left.
“It’s just one of those nights where it was back-and-forth,” Wolgamott said. “It’s tough because you want to win, especially against the number one team at home. But they gave it everything they had. I don’t have anything bad to say about them tonight.”
Siletz pulled ahead by 2 points with seconds left in overtime. The Sailors attempted a 3-pointer buzzer beater that hit the rim but bounced.
“We were one inch away from a miracle shot, but it wasn’t in the cards. That shot looked really good from where I was at. Just a tiny bit over,” Wolgamott said. “But in
the end, it was a hell of an effort and I’m proud of the boys.”
JJ Neece had a monster game, leading with 21 points, followed closely by Nate Neece’s 20-point performance. Justyce Wierichs also had an impressive 17 points against the Warriors.
“And freshmen Kody Wierichs had two big threes,” Wolgamott added. “I tell him, you have to take that shot if you’re open. Even if you miss it, at least you look like a threat. And he was a threat tonight. I was proud of him.”
Wolgamott gave special praise for Justyce and Neece, both seniors playing their last home game before playoffs.
“I’m happy for them finishing out that way,” he said. “Nate played his best game of the year with Justyce on attack mode, they played smart. I’m really proud of them for keeping their composure. That’s a big thing we’ve been working on.”
They were particularly smart when it came to fouls, with both seniors playing with three each at half time — then four the rest of the game.
“They survived it, but it did take away from them being aggressive at times,” Wolgamott said. “I saw them give up a layup or two there. I told them if it’s between you getting your fifth foul or them getting a layup, let them get the lay up until crunch time. We have to have you for the game, and they were able to do that.”
As for the few things the team had to work on, there were lapses defensively.
“[Siltez’] 3-pointers really hurt us tonight,” Wolgamott said. “You take a few of those away, and we win. That’s a lapse on our coverage. You have to recognize the shooters and not let them have open threes.”
With that said, the Sailors were still playing their best basketball of the season.
“Talking, communicating, looking with your head up, being willing to make that extra pass,” Wolgamott said. “It’s not about scoring now, it’s about finding that person and taking pride in rebounds and assists. That’s what you want for a team, to be peaking at the end of this year. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m confident in our ability, especially watching what we did tonight.”
Last week, Wolgamott was expecting to end up in third place, playing No. 3 to go to the championship game.
“But now Siletz and Mowhak are tied for first,” he said. “That bypasses everything and they just meet in the championship game now.”
Which also means that the playoff game Feb. 22 will be do-or-die situation for the Sailors.
“It’s win and you’re at state, basically,” Wolgamott said. “If we play the way we played tonight, I think we have a great shot. But we just have to keep the same intensity.”
The opponents will be either McKenzie, Eddyville Charter or Crow.
“I think combined, we’re 5-1 against those teams. But they’re going to be in that game for a reason and we have to take them seriously. I’ll be thinking about this one all weekend, but that’s what a coach does.”
Between the boys playing at peak performance on Thursday, along with the girls winning an historic quadruple overtime game, Wolgamott said he was proud to be a part of Mapleton basketball.
“I don’t remember the last time Mapleton had an evening of basketball like this. It was something special,” he said. “But overall, the big winner tonight was the school and the community.”
As for Mapleton’s chances next Saturday, Wolgamott stuck to mantra: One game at a time.
“If we play the way we played tonight, I think we have a great shot,” he said.
The playoff game will be at Harrisburg High School on Saturday, Feb. 22, beginning at 12:30 p.m.