Dec. 24, 2019 — The last moments of the boys’ basketball game between Siuslaw and South Umpqua were tense.
With a minute left in the game and down by 2, the Viks were looking to secure the lead by going for a 3-pointer. When the ball went up, “it looked really good for us,” coach Dylan Perry recalled.
But it didn’t go in.
At that point, Siuslaw played its most disciplined final seconds of any game in the preseason.
Leading up to those last seconds was a rollercoaster although the first quarter was essentially a flat track.
“We played a matchup zone that they handled pretty well,” Perry said. “They got their ball to the corner on us, which is usually the weak spot of our zone. They were hitting some shots, which kept us close in the first quarter.”
Then, the Viks started making some headway in the second.
“Our press caused some pressure South Umpqua wasn’t really comfortable with. So, we got out and got some easy buckets out of it.”
The push put Siuslaw by 14 at the half, but Perry knew a win was in no way a sure bet.
“We kept reiterating to ourselves that it wasn’t over, and we had to press on and play a better second half of basketball to get the win,” he said. “The other team was playing pretty scrappy, we knew they were going to come out hard the second half. They weren’t going to roll over, and we knew we had a fight on our hands.”
The second half started out strong, but then a few Vikings starters got into foul trouble.
“We had some reserves come in, who played really well,” Perry said. “[Umpqua] continued to hit 3-point shots against us. They made a bit of a comeback and played a little bit better basketball than us in the third period.”
The Lancers were down by just 5 when the fourth quarter began. The Viks continued with their pressure in a back-and-forth battle — then, some trouble. Starter Jacob Foskett fouled out, and then there were a pair of technical fouls for Braydon Thornton, who had been leading in scoring throughout the preseason.
The first technical was for a slip of the tongue with language.
“I believe it was right next to the ref,” Perry said. “It wasn’t smart, and he knows he’s not supposed to be doing that.”
The second technical was questionable.
“[Umpqua] called a timeout. Braydon was upset and untucked his Jersey in the timeout, and the referee didn’t like that,” said Perry. “When you get one technical, the refs are going to start putting you under a microscope, so you have to be smart about what you’re doing.”
Still, a technical for untucking a shirt was a first for Perry.
“I’d never seen anything like that in my 10 years of coaching,” he said. “But you can’t really do anything about it once he calls it.”
Unfortunately, the call seemed to get into his players’ heads.
“That’s been one of our downfalls this season, mental toughness,” Perry said. “Whether it be executing what we want to do on offense or staying disciplined on defense. That night, we kind of let the officials get in our head and take us out of the game, which is something we can’t do.”
So, the Viks got mentally tough as the backups came in.
“They played lots of minutes for us, so there’s not necessarily a distinction between our starters and our bench players.”
Down 2 points with a minute left on the clock, that’s when the 3-poitner was missed.
Enter Skyler Loomis, who nabbed a crucial offensive rebound on the missed shot, scored the rebound and tied the game with 45 seconds remaining.
“We put our full court pressure on them again, tried to get them frazzled a little bit,” said Perry.
The Lancers’ point guard tried to dribble through traffic but, instead, took an extra step and drew a call for traveling — stopping the clock with 30 seconds to go and the Viks now in possession.
On the next play, point guard Brody Terry came off of a screen, driving all the way to the basket for a layup and quick 2-point Siuslaw lead.
The Lancers got the next possession and forced up a shot then bounced off the rim.
“We got the rebound because we knew they were going to come after us and foul us,” Perry said.
And that’s exactly what the Lancers did, putting Liam McClellan at the freethrow line. McClellan missed the first but drained the second shot for a 3-point Viking lead with 3 seconds to go.
Umpqua passed the ball to the outside and went for a 3-pointer to tie the game again, bit it was off the mark as the final buzzer erupted.
“I’m sure it was fun for the fans and the players, but I was getting some heartache,” Perry said.
After the game, the mood of the players was mixed, still frustrated about Thornton getting that second technical that removed him from the game.
“But I was excited, and I wanted them to be excited,” Perry said. “It was a hard-fought win. We could have rolled over with two of our best players out, but we never gave up and I was super proud of them for that.”
Terry was the lead scorer on the night with 17 points.
Despite being benched, both Thornton and Foskett had strong nights with 16 and 12 points, respectively. In addition, senior Caleb Hennessee scored 4 points.
“He’s a great team leader and gets all of our guys organized,” said Perry. “As a senior, everybody looks up to him because he’s been through the fire before. He knows what we’re trying to do, and it’s like having an extension of another coach on the roster.”
Perry also pointed out Rhys Fleming’s 7 points, along with Avery Hart’s strong work on offense and defense.
“And I can’t forget about Elijah Blankenship,” Perry added. “He didn’t score any points, but his ability to put pressure on the opposing offensive guards is something we were really lacking last year, and it’s made a huge difference for us this year. He can get put people out of their comfort zone and put a lot of pressure on them and disrupt them.”
The Viks will face off against Douglas at home this Friday, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
“I think our best basketball is going to be coming up against Douglas,” Perry said. “I think every game and every practice, we’re seeing improvements, and I’m proud of the guys for working hard.”