By Jeremy McDonald
FOREST GROVE, Ore.– It was too close for comfort, but the Stayton Boys got it done Thursday night versus Henley down the stretch 57-53 to advance to the 4A State Semi-Finals Round against Seaside.
The Eagles jumped out 20-9 after the first quarter, but slowly the Hornets swarmed back into the game entering the final quarter with the game tied at 44 before Braden Lawrie handed Henley what was temporarily the lead at 53-51 with 1:55 left in the game.
Henley missed two opportunities to push their lead to beyond two that set up the deadly concoction of trying to slow down Stayton’s shooters.
Logan Classen and Riley Nichol missed three-pointer that would have gave the Eagles a one-point lead entering the final minute before they relied on their version of Shaq down in the trenches in Kaleb Anundi.
Anundi was fouled with 55 seconds left and through the ‘air ball’ chants from across the gym, he drained both to tie the game at 53.
“The pressure was on but honestly I was frustrated at missing them early, so I knew I had to make those ones,” said Anundi.
The Eagles got the ball back on a turnover and Anundi was fed and fouled again with 22 seconds remaining. The Senior drains those to hand Stayton the lead 55-53 with the Eagle crowd erupting next to him.
But there was still time for a three to win for Henley as Dale Fenters launches one with 12 seconds left.
No good as it was rebounded by Lawrie before Lawrie accidentally turned it over to the Eagles with seven seconds remaining.
The ball went back to Anundi on the inbounds and the six-seven post visited the line again and put the game on ice with six seconds remaining with a pair of free throws to help send his squad to the Final Four Friday afternoon at 3:15pm at Forest Grove High School.
“This is the first time in a long time and I’m excited for it,” smiled Anundi. “We just came back fighting and we came out on top, I’m happy.”
Anundi and Nichol each finished with 23 points, Nichol recorded a double-double with 12 rebounds. Anundi had nine to his name Thursday night.