By Jeremy McDonald
MEDFORD, Ore.– When McKay traveled to Medford to take part in the Abby’s Holiday Basketball Tournament, the Scots never saw themselves in the Championship-side of the bracket.
In the fifth-year in the tournament, McKay (6-4) finally broke through that cursed barrier by defeating Eagle Point by 10 on Wednesday. Thursday, they pulled off their second straight Tournament win over Red Bluff to set up the match-up with North Medford (11-1).
“I feel like, the seniors on the team now, we knew what it took us to get to fourth place, But we’re tired of it,” said Andre Tovar, who was named to the Tournament Team and scored 16 points in the Championship Game. “I mean, all the practices we knew we could become Champions and we got to the finals and that’s what we wanted. It’s our last year, we want to get it and we all put in the work.”
For the first quarter, McKay and North Medford both traded blows that ended with Ryan Bangs hitting a corner three-pointer that brought the Scots to within one of the Black Tornado entering the second quarter down 14-13.
But in the second quarter, North’s headliner player in Kaison Faust began to find this rhythm as the six-foot-two senior guard helped the Black Tornado take a 22-17 lead thanks in part to his versatility and athleticism.
Andre Tovar and his McKay team kept pace with Faust as back-to-back three’s by Tovar had the Scots down 26-23 with the hopes that they’ll keep up this pace versus Faust.
But Faust lead North Medford on a 14-6 advantage as Drioji Joel hit a pair of free throws to make it a 40-29 halftime deficit entering the locker room as 16 of the Black Torando’s 26 points came from Faust.
“It was pretty tough because he’s a real athletic kid, I think there’s adjustments we could have made to stop him but I don’t know much of an impact it would have made,” said Ryan Bangs on playing against Faust who had 30 points total in the game versus the Scots, 18 coming in the first half.
The Scots kept the game close to ten during the early going of the third, but the Scots struggled to find the bottom of the net as North Medford pushed their lead to over 20 thanks to the rebounding and turnover game that transitioned into quick points during another 26 point quarter.
That 52-30 stretch during the middle 16 minutes period, not just set the pace in the 83-59 win for the Black Tornado’s, but left a sour taste in the mouths of McKay after finally reaching the Championship Game of the Tournament.
“It’s just frustrating because it’s obviously cool that we made history for McKay and going as far as any other team has. But this is frustrating that we couldn’t compete the whole game against a team like that,” said Bangs.
McKay knew it was going to be a challenge against a playoff team like North that’s been at the Chiles Center twice in the last four years included last season’s consolation Semi-Final run, but it did show them what it takes and that experience if they hope to break into the Field of 32 this season after getting a play-in game last season.
“We just got to be aggressive, get rebounds and just go 100-percent in everything we do. We just have to treat each game as a playoff game as coach said if we treat it like that environment we hopefully come out on top on the scoreboard in every game, we’re going to keep going and keep getting ‘W’s”,” said Tovar on how a game like against the Black Tornado’s helped them enter each game with that same mentality as North had Friday.
With McMinnville Tuesday to restart the Greater Valley Conference play, the hopes that the tough preseason versus teams like Beaverton, Oregon City and now North Medford will hopefully pay off and will start to show as they prepare for the Grizzlies on the road.
And some of the things will include that aggressiveness like in the rebounding game and taking charges to tally up the other team’s foul total to give them more opportunities to put the ball of their streaky guards.
“Besides rebounding, I think we just got to get more guys to take more charges, I think that’s big right now,” said Bangs. “We have to focus on what’s good but also focus on what’s bad because that’s what is going to make the difference.”