By Jeremy McDonald
WOODBURN, Ore.– When the third quarter started, there was a feeling that it was going to be a good game between Stayton and Woodburn Boys basketball with the Oregon West Conference-title on the line Friday night.
The third-ranked Eagles were up 29-24 in their OWC-title sealing 64-49 win over the fourth-ranked Bulldogs, but there was a sense of anything is possible when the squads came out of the locker rooms.
Kaleb Anundi had two fouls and was limited in his minutes while RJ Veliz and Ryan Stebner helped keep Woodburn within reach of Stayton entering halftime. Veliz, who joined the 2,000 point club with his 20 point game, scored 11 of his 20 in the first half while Stebner scored seven of his 13 in the opening 16 minutes of the game.
“I mean it’s an awesome record, coming into the game I didn’t have it in mind. I was trying to do anything we could to get the win,” said Veliz. “We were right there but we didn’t shoot the ball well in the third quarter and that was kind of the difference maker.
“We did a great job taking their big’s away I think (Anundi) had 10 points. But they were getting shots there and they were hitting. But 2,000 is incredible, I mean being put on a list with Kevin Love and Payton Pritchard and great players in Oregon.”
Their goal, like Stayton’s, is to bring home that State Title come seasons end. And during the third quarter, the Eagles began to convert offensively from the missed opportunities Woodburn had on the other end of the court.
By the 4:40 mark of the fourth quarter the once five-point game had developed into a 52-31 Stayton lead. Jordan Butler dropped eight third quarter points with two three-pointers to help the Eagle charge as the Stayton Senior finished with 16 points in the win.
“We just really focused up during halftime and we knew we had to come out and lock down on the defensive end and execute on offense and that’s what we did,” said Butler.
Their strategy on defense was like their first game of accounting for Veliz, who only scored two points in the third quarter before scoring seven in the final frame, and pressured Woodburn to beat them in other ways as they did on January 16.
“Pretty much a mirror image, we did try to do more of a match-up zone,” said Riley Nichol. “But we know RJ is a hellave player so we definitely made our game plan around him.”
The Bulldogs matched point-for-point with Stayton in the fourth, 18 and 18, but the third quarter was ultimately slowed Woodburn down Friday as they look to use this game as a stepping stone.
“I think we could use that as a stepping stone that we’re up there with one of the better teams in the State and we are one of the best teams in the State. I think that if we keep our heads down and get back to the grind in practice every day. Ultimately our goal is to go down to Forest Grove and get those games down there,” said Veliz.
For the Eagles, yes it feels good to win the Conference Title, but their job isn’t finish either with Sisters and Cascade coming up to close out the season.
“First thing I said in the locker room is that we got to keep a level heads,” said Riley Nichol. “It’s a great win, feels good. But we have two more league games and we will have a playoff game after that, so we got to be ready.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald