The Viking boys basketball team came into Friday's final Far West League match-up in hopes of upsetting undefeated rival and league champion North Bend for several reasons not the least of which was to secure the league's No. 2 spot heading into the state play-in game.
To do so would mean the first postseason appearance by the Vikings in nearly a decade.
In addition, it was also Senior Night, and potentially the last game on the home hardwood for seniors Brogan Cornish and Marcos Reyna-Ayala .
Plus, handing the Bulldogs (10-0 ) their first loss of the season would be an added bonus.
With all of those factors in mind, it quickly became evident that the Vikings had come to play like they had never played before.
"It's been a long time since Siuslaw hosted a state playoff game," said Siuslaw coach Dylan Perry, "so our guys came into the game wanting to make a deep run into the post season."
Though the Bulldogs were the first to score on a pair of charity shots, Siuslaw rallied quickly with an offensive rebound by junior post Trent Reavis, who then scored on a 3-point play to give the Viks a 5-2 advantage.
North Bend sank a short jumper to pull within 1 point, with junior wing Jake Hickson dishing the ball to junior Kyle King for a quick bucket.
The Bulldogs answered at the other end of the court, but a long 3-pointer by Hickson put Siuslaw ahead by 4. Hickson the added a pair of freethrows with 13 seconds left for an 11-6 lead heading into the second quarter.
The last time the two teams faced each other, at North Bend, the Vikings entered the half with a slim lead over the Bulldogs, who came back to outscore the Viks by double digits in the third quarter and create a deficit Siuslaw was unable to overcome.
This time, it was North Bend's turn to hold the lead at halftime, 25-21 .
But unlike the last time, there was no third-quarter blitz by the Bulldogs, who were held to just 9 points by Siuslaw's solid defensive efforts. Meanwhile, the Vikings tacked on 10 points to stay within 3 points, 34-31 , to start the fourth quarter.
"These types of games are extremely valuable, win or lose," Perry said. "The intensity and pressure are what build confidence and an understanding of what needs to be done to win games like that."
The Vikings, with scoring from junior Jared Brandt, freshman Sam Myers, Reavis, King and Hickson, were within 2 points, 41-43 , with just over 1 minute to go when foul trouble for the Vikings put the Bulldogs at the charity line three times in the last 45 seconds.
During that time, North Bend was able to extend its lead to 6 and hold out for the win, 47-41 .
"If we could have executed and stay focused down the stretch, I believe the outcome would have been in our favor," said Perry.
That same night, the Viks got a little help from rival Douglas, which hosted Marshfield for a upset that shifted standings in the Far West League.
The win by the Trojans bumped them up into a tie for second place with Siuslaw, with Marshfield dropping into fourth place. Since the Vikings had defeated Douglas twice this season , Siuslaw automatically won the tie for second place in league, dropping the Trojans into third place.
As a result, Douglas will open the state play-in on the road; Siuslaw will host a game this Friday, most likely against Newport or Cascade.
"I hope to see the gym packed to capacity on Friday night," said Perry.
North Bend (10-0 ) will get a bye in round one. Marshfield could still potentially make the state playoffs, depending on their final ranking, which was determined last night (after press deadlines.)
Friday's play-in game at Siuslaw will tip off at 7 p.m.