By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– It seem strange that two team’s that met in the Consolation Semi-Final round at Coos Bay in 2017 were meeting up for a showdown to get back to that point in 2018.
As number one Dayton and number two De La Salle Catholic advanced with sound wins, Santiam Christian pulled away from Salem Academy late, the match-ups between seeds four through 13 with the most surprising game being the tenth-seed Oregon Episcopal School beating the seventh-seed Creswell by 17 points.
But up the Interstate 5 a way, at Blanchet Catholic, the Cavailers were playing host to a familiar playoff foe in Amity. The Warriors squeaked by Blanchet 59-57 in the Consolation Finals as Amity lost to the Crusaders of Salem Academy on the momentum of a five-point play late in the game for sixth-place.
With 4:12 left in the second quarter, Amity found themselves up 22-13 and looked like the Warriors of their 10-2 start to the season with how well they were playing.
“It was fun, i think we gave it our all, everything we had and I applaud them, they at the end of the game played better than us,” said Amity senior Kodiak Yaeger. “But overall I think it was great for my last game I will ever play in High School, it was fun and can’t complain.”
Zac Blake, who’s been so shifty and showing off his best skills on the court for Amity this season since transferring from Sheridan entering his senior year this year, got to taste not just the league playoffs but the Bracket play as well in his final season.
And he described it as a monster all of itself.
“It’s insane, it’s loud. Every shot, every defensive possession, everything with the ball matters. In league you don’t realize…when it comes down to it, win-or-go-home, there’s a lot to load. Every loose ball, every 50/50 ball,” said Blake.
But the senior guard looked comfortable as he scored 19 total points to out do teammate Yaeger who had 10 points and looked as if this wasn’t the first time he’s been on a big stage like this before.
Slowly, as they did against Salem Academy at Sprague High School a few days ago, Blanchet started to find their shot and Amity hung around leading 28-24 at halftime and 30-24 to start the third quarter after Tyler Parr’s basket.
“It was tough. Mentally, physically it’s tough. I got three early fouls, but I had to play through it,” said Blanchet’s Mike Bashaw. “But my teammates played well, I didn’t play a great game but thanks to RJ (Veliz) and Steven (Copple) and Freddy (Torres) and Diego (Torres), they played a great game.”
Though Bashaw had five points, his eight rebounds helped the Cavaliers find a niche in the third and gave Blanchet a brief lead with six minutes left in the game as last year crept into their minds.
“Oh it’s great because as many people know (Amity) ended our season last year and coaches have been telling us about how they were getting text about, ‘hey it’s a tough draw’, ‘it’s a tough way to end the season’,” said Bashaw. “It motivated us because they ended our season last year and it pushed us and it helped us to play a great game, though we didn’t play well we pulled it off.”
With the game tied at 41 a few moments later, Yaeger gave Amity a 43-41 lead before RJ Veliz tied it at 43 as the Warriors were giving Blanchet all they could handle as Blake gives the Warriors back the lead up 44-43 on the next possession.
“I mean this game honestly helps us than I think most teams say that the first-round game will help but in Coos Bay games are going to be like this,” said Veliz. “Our Coaches have always say that we’ve been in every sort of game. We’ve been in every kind of game you can think of:
“We’ve been in blowouts, we’ve been in overtime versus a lower-ranked team, we’ve been in everything. So I think this game honestly, rather than us blowing them out I think it helps us even more and at the end of this game we got the win and move on to Coos Bay and we held up three more fingers…three more games to go for our goal.”
Their goal: The Blue Banner. The State Championship. Three games to get there and bring it home.
“I think it’s that first game, we need to bring out the intensity from the get-go,” said Veliz. “We’re going to have two days of practice, there going to be really hard practices and I think the difference between us and the most of the teams in the State are that 15 people on our bench, including the coaches…all 15 believe what we can do and we can win State. Just that belief is going to take us to the next level and take us to our ultimate goal.”
There was still time left as Veliz hit a three to give Blanchet a 46-44 lead, Blake missed a three missed to give the Warriors a one-point lead as the Cavs pushed their lead to four then seven before Blake scored the last basket of his High School career and of Amity’s season as Blanchet Catholic walked out of the gym with a 53-46 victory Saturday night.
On the other end, Amity’s end, as they trickle out of the locker room for the last time this year. For some, for the last time in their High School Careers, the pain is there in body language and by emotions they let out.
Some, like those on the Cavaliers side, will go on after this year and play collegiality at some level behind High School; but the pain is still there.
“It’s hard to understand at the moment right now,” said Blake. “But, I’m looking to play in college so whenever I sign or decide to sign, I will have to work really hard and get after it next year.”
Yaeger, one of the other seniors on the Warriors team like Blake, Sam White and Jaycen Nelson, said one of the takeaways he can leave for the underclassmen like a Parr or a Brian Hatch is to not walk in and not expect great things right off the bat.
“They just can’t take anything for granted,” said Yaeger. “I think we came into this season thinking we’re going to play better than we did and realize halfway through it that we weren’t the team we were expecting to be and didn’t do as good as we thought.
“So for all the kids under us, work your ass off and take everything you can and not take anything for granted really.”
As Amity get’s on the bus for the trip back home, the Cavs will open Elite 8 play in Coos Bay at 3:15pm at North Bend High School versus Horizon Christian High School of Tualatin Thursday March 1.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald