Boys Basketball Update

The game between Stayton and Sweet Home at home last Tuesday lived up to its billing, and then some. Unfortunately, the Eagles maintained their league leading status by defeating the Huskies, 47-44.

It attracted more students than any previous game this year, and they were loud. Stayton brought their own crowd, and they were loud. After all, this game had conference championship implications. Both teams had disciplined athletes; both teams respected each other. All this intensity was packed together into one gymnasium, and as coach Mark Risen stated, “it was what high school basketball is all about.”

“In a game that tight, it seemed like every basket was huge,” said senior wing, Anthony Mink. “The crowd boosts you up when they go crazy. It makes it seem like every possession is life and death.”

And the game unfolded with both teams fairly tight from the hype. Risen was concerned in the first quarter that too many shots were taken that were off-balance , something he stresses constantly, especially with the nature of the Huskies’ up-tempo style. After exchanging baskets, which happened frequently throughout the game, the Eagles took advantage of Sweet Home’s lull and ran off the last nine points of the quarter to take a 13-5 lead.

In the second quarter, Ricky Howe helped the Huskies reverse their fortunes, starting out with a lay-in off a Mink assist. The Sweet Home defense got stingy as well, forcing the Eagles into turnovers. Gradually the Huskies chopped away at Stayton’s lead, leading to the quarter-ending patented Tim Matuszak alley-oop pass to Howe, who also was fouled. That play put the Huskies into the lead going into halftime, 19-18.

It looked like the Huskies might take control of the game in the third quarter when they took a six point lead after Mink sank the first of two free throws on a technical.

“There wasn’t a time on the floor that it didn’t seem like we were the better team,” said Mink.

But then the second free throw rimmed out. Howe was called for a charging foul. Stayton came down and captured 4 offensive rebounds to get their next basket. From there, the momentum shifted back to the Eagles. After an 8 point run, Stayton found itself on top again at the 2:30 mark. A last second drive and dish by Matuszak to Alex Ritzman made the game all square at 32 at the end of the quarter.

Risen quoted former Husky coach Ed Nieman, something he does a lot, saying all you can is ask for the opportunity. In the fourth quarter, both teams worked to make sure they had the opportunity at the end of the game.

Up by two at 41-39, Stayton became very patient in their offense. The Huskies fouled and the Eagles dropped in both free throws. Howe answered with two free throws of his own and then stole an Eagle pass. But then it was Stayton’s turn to answer with a steal of their own, and the Huskies had to foul again with 30 seconds left. Stayton sank both.

Not to be outdone, Garrett Kauffman tossed in a three point shot from the left baseline to bring the Huskies within one. When Stayton only converted one of their two free throws, Sweet Home had its opportunity.

After a timeout with a play called, Matuszak drove past Mink’s screen and had an uncontested lay-in to tie the game. Matuszak, who had led the Huskies in their fight down the stretch in so many other games this year, didn’t see the ball come off the rim. He was already playing defense.

“I think he was too open,” said Risen. “As a basketball player, if you have time to think, that’s your worst nightmare.”

It was a game that the entire team expected to win and thought they had.

“We had them right there,” said Mink. “Just a few mistakes changed the whole game around.”

Still it gave them confidence that they could play at that level and that on any night they are capable of beating anyone.

“We’re not making the mental mistakes we were before,” said Matuszak. “Some of those close games turned into 20 point games in the second half of league.”

They didn’t need their “A” game against North Marion, whom they trounced 74-37 on Friday. Ricky Howe had 19 points in the first half on open shot after open shot at the rim. When Mark Lewis sank a baseline jumper near the end of the fourth quarter, all thirteen Huskies had their name in the scoring column.

With their second place finish in the Capital Conference, the Huskies will host the third place team from the Tri-Valley league on Tuesday, March 2nd, tentatively at 7:00 P.M. In the new state format, all second place teams have home games against number threes. Whoever wins that game, goes on to play on the road against a conference champion on Saturday, March 6th, in this case Tillamook.

Coach Risen believes his team is ready for anybody.

“If this team has fresh legs under them, they are as explosive as any team I’ve ever coached,” said Risen. “I’m very pleased with the balance we have offensively and defensively. As long as we play within ourselves and keep playing with the same energy, we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”

Their legs will be fresh. The Tri-Valley’s representative may not be as they have a league playoff for the third spot with games on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

With fresh legs and the same crowd, it will be another night good for high school basketball.