By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– The last three meetings between McKay and Sprague dating back to last season saw the Scots a few plays away from defeating the Olympians. Like a matter of eight-points or less in the last three meetings with Sprague taking the last six meetings since McKay’s December 16, 2014 66-49 victory when the Scots current Seniors were freshman.
On Senior Night on February 9, 2018, Israel Garza hit a shot with eight seconds left in regulation that sent the game to overtime tied at 68. It was two of Garza’s 21 points in the game.
As the overtime period started, Khyler Beach opened the scoring with an opposite hand lay-in with the Senior scoring again moments later to put the Scots up 73-68 with an ‘And-one’.
“Going into the game, the pass couple of games we’ve lost by one-point and we played our best that game and it didn’t go our way and this game we just wanted to go in the same way and the game just went our way,” said Beach, who had a team-high 31 points.
Jailen Hammer hit a three to bring Sprague to within two before McKay pushed it out to 76-71. Teagan Quitoriano drained a three-pointer from the top of the key before tying it at 76 after the Olys got a turn over and Quitoriano received the ball to tie it up as the game went to Double Overtime tied at 76.
Quitoriano finished with a game-high 36 points while Hammer added another 16 for the Sprague Olympians.
The atmosphere was intense, the players were riding the adrenaline train, McKay’s Dean Sanderson was going crazy on the Scots bench while Sprague’s Steve Masten was a little more tamed compare to his coaching counterpart in Green.
“I don’t know, it’s kind of hard for me to describe the intensity as a coach because I am a little bit deattached trying to figure out what they’re going to run next,” said Masten on the game. “I know it was intense for sure but I can’t really respond to that I guess.”
As both teams came out, both teams fan-bases were well-represented in the gym and was making the gym loud enough it was hard to keep track of your thoughts almost.
Tovar pushed McKay up four before Max Long cut it to one as McKay came down the court to milk the clock with the time ticking below two to play in the game. It wasn’t until 30 seconds left in the second overtime period when Tovar drove the lane and put the Scots up 86-83.
Sprague went down, tried to tie on several attempts to no avail as frustrations boiled for the Olympians with Quitoriano picking up his fifth foul and Hammer picking up a technical out of the heat of the moment in frustration.
With four free-throws, Drioji Joel and Tovar split the four as nerves were there knowing that Sprague still had the firepower to possibly pull this out down Quitoriano.
“Even when Drioji was at the free throw line, I was nervous too actually and I wasn’t even shooting,” smiled and laugh Tovar, who had 25 points in the game. “But I knew that even if we can knock one-, two down then that’ll give us a better chance. Every time we had one, our chances to win goes up and as long as I make one and play D, box out and do what we do, we’ll get that ‘W’ tonight.”
Joel and Tovar both went one-for-two to put the Scots up 88-83. Beach connected on two more free throws to make it 90-83 with 15 seconds left in the game.
Sprague drove down the court and tried to cut it to four for a miracle-like finish with time against them, but a missed three rebounded by McKay allowed the Scots to put the 90-83 victory to bed as the Scots celebrated probably the biggest win of the season to send their seniors off right.
As the Olympians walked off the court, it was a tough pill to swallow knowing that a win would have kept the one-game Greater Valley Conference lead on McNary though Sprague owns the season head-to-head tiebreaker over the Celtics; but with three games to go versus McMinnville, North Salem and Forest Grove, the ball is in their court to finish strong.
“I challenged the guys after the game to use this as motivation down the stretch so I expect that’s what is going to happen. We got three more games and we kind of control our own destiny,” said Masten. “We play two games at home and one on the road so we could finish 14-2 in league you know, we’ll be the league champs and hopefully we’ll be ranked high enough to have a good seeding.”
The Olys sit third in the State at the moment at 17-4 overall and 11-2 in league play
As for McKay, Dean Sanderson knows the feeling Sprague’s going through at the moment having lost heartbreakers to McMinnville (77-75) and McNary (60-59) in the last two-weeks alone as they close out the season with West Albany and South Salem.
Sanderson, who was passionate during the game and was the first one on the court to congratulate his athletes, especially the Seniors on the court that helped with the win after seeing them stay tough until the very end.
“That was exciting and there’s something I want to say, our kids have been through a lot and in life they’ve been through a lot and they’ve worked their tails off for me for four-years,” “It hasn’t been easy and we’ve had our share of games of where we’ve been very frustrated and upset at the end and I felt like we handled ourselves like men when that happens.
“We get knocked down and we find a way to pick ourselves back up. So watching the way that played at the end tonight and it made it extra special because we know how it feels to lose hard games. We know how it feels to lose hard at life too and pull ourselves up and know what? That was exciting and we deserved to win.”
The win too was important as the Scots try to battle for one of the play-in spots as they look to carry this momentum to the Bulldogs Tuesday.
“It’s good because our team hopefully, actually I don’t even care if they take notice of us but I know we can play with any team if we can play our game,” said Beach.
“It shows that we’re going to be ready, prepared because this game obviously gave us that idea of how a playoff game is going to be,” “So whoever’s next, whoever we get in the playoffs, we’re going to use this as an opportunity to get a ‘W’.”