Huskies in the thick of boys hoops race after pair of wins

The Sweet Home boys basketball team is in the thick of a tight scrap for the league championship title.

With a pair of wins last week, 35-32 against Taft at home on Tuesday, and 57-52 against Newport on the road Saturday, the Huskies started the week with a 7-3 record, tied with Philomath for second, while Newport held an 8-3 record.

The Huskies were scheduled to play Newport again Tuesday night, at home, after The New Era went to press, in a game that would leave the winner in contention with Philomath for the title.

If the Huskies defeat the Cubs on Tuesday and Central on the road Friday, they are guaranteed a second-place finish. If Philomath loses just one of two games this week, then the Huskies would win the title if they win out.

Once the records are set at the end of the week, league playoffs start, with the fourth-place team competing with the third-place team for third seed at the state playoffs. The winner of that game plays the second-place team for second seed.

“It’s pretty tight,” Coach Tim Little said. “We’ve made it a little bit difficult on ourselves lately,” being down at halftime and having to dig out of a hole.

Led by Ryan Graville Tuesday night, the Huskies stayed just ahead of Taft, which has managed only two league wins so far this year.

“We were up most of the way,” Little said. “Typical Taft – They are in every game. They haven’t had one blowout this year with the exception of Philomath.”

It’s tough beating any team three times in a season, Little said, and Taft is definitely not a team the Huskies will want to face in the fourth place versus third place playoff game.

“They were patient,” Little said. “They ran their offense really well.”

With disciplined offense and defense, the Tigers focused on shutting down Gabe Kauffman, who was still recovering from an illness, Little said. That’s where Graville came in.

Graville led Husky scoring with 16 points. The night before, he scored 18 points in the Huskies’ loss to Philomath.

Graville, a junior, came up strong in the third round of league last year as well, Little said. “He’s doing it on both ends of the court.”

On Saturday against Newport, Graville shot 4-6 from the three-point line and 4-4 from the foul line. Against Taft, he put up three three-pointers.

“It makes it so much better when he can score, while teams focus on Gabe and Colton (Emmert),” Little said.

Against Taft, Kauffman scored eight; Emmert, seven; Jared Olson, two; Josh Riggs, one; and Dustin Hay, one.

Against Newport on the road, the Huskies were down six at halftime after giving up 26 points in the first half.

The Huskies played all right in the first quarter, Little said, and in the second, Newport got an easy board and went into a transition-fast-break run.

Graville showed up strong again, and with Kauffman, carried the Huskies in the second half.

The Huskies hit some shots, and as often happens, Little said, they played better defense along with that improved offense.

Newport pressed the Huskies with a couple minutes left in the game, and the Huskies gave the ball away three times in that period, Little said, but it wasn’t enough to get the Cubs back on top.

At the foul line, Emmert and Kauffman clinched the game, Emmert shooting 8-8 and Kauffman 9-11.

Kauffman ended up with 13 rebounds, one behind his season high and probably his career high, Little said. “He just played a solid game.”

The Huskies will finish the regular seson at Central this Friday.

Going into the week, Newport was 8-3. The Huskies and Philomath were 7-3. Taft and Central were 2-8.