By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– The Stayton Eagles have been finding themselves in this situation before in the past few years:
Competing in the Play-In Round.
But here’s the thing, they haven’t gotten over the hump and got into the bracket….until this year.
Entering the fourth quarter in a fight with Scappoose, the Eagles were up 45-38 and found themselves up 48-41 with five minutes to go and the Indians breathing down their necks as defense became important in order to outlast Scappoose.
“We just had to lock down and stay disciplined on defense and we really wanted this,” said Kaleb Anundi as the Indians cut the lead down to five with 2:05 left in the game and coming out of a timeout.
That’s when, the offense clicked.
Jordan Butler connected on a pair of free throws off a technical foul that was followed by Anundi throwing it down to make it 56-45 before the lead was pushed to 58-45.
Stayton was converted rebounds, turnovers and the like into points like it was practice as the student section was cheering and were hooting and hollering knowing it’s been a few years since the Eagles Men were in this position.
“It felt great, I mean Stayton hasn’t been to the Round of 16 in a really long-time so I’m really excited for it,” said Anundi.
Consider this, last time Stayton was at this point was 2008. That year the Eagles finished fifth in State and these current Stayton Ballers were somewhere in the range of just starting Elementary School when this last run happened.
Fast forward ten-years and time was trickling down with some of the bench in the game, Tony Schoenborn, Ryan Burton and Danen Palmer to name a few as they polished off the 65-45 victory to place them firmly in the Field of 16 next week.
As the bench got up and went out to the court with smiles on their faces, Jerry Daniels met Palmer to celebrate the win.
“It’s a big step for everybody, we all wanted this, coach wanted it the most,” said Daniels. “We’ve just been praying and working hard and now we’re going to keep working until we get where we need.”
And that’s one step further to Forest Grove for the Elite 8, which also would be a first since that 2008 run. But in front of them is La Grande (16-7, 6-0 Greater Oregon League), at their place, on Saturday.
But they’ll be ready with how Head Coach Joe Kizer has set up practice that has gotten them to this point of the season.
“Well we have this amazing practice team, it’s a mixture of some of our Varsity kids and our hard-working JV kids that push us each day in practice,” said Daniels “So they’re going to keep doing that and the starters are going to keep getting that adversity until it’s game-time.”
Anundi finished with 24 points, Daniels added 15. Riley Nichol had 11 points as did Butler with 11. Schoenborn and Danen Palmer both had two points each in the win.