By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Friday evening’s game with Wenatchee Valley showed the potential that this young and scrappy Chemeketa Men’s Basketball team is capable of as they kick off their three-day home endeavour at The Storm Center. Falling to a Knights team, coming off a 2022 NWAC Semi-Final appearance, 62-61 on this evening after having moments of great basketball as well as good learning experiences in the process coming out of the heartbreaking contest.
“Points of emphasis have been turnovers and rebounds for sure,” Liberty-grad Zane Bernhard said. “We’re a scrappy group of guys and we got to limit the turnovers on offense and defense, we got to box out and rebound. When we’re giving up boards like that and extra possessions, that’s where it kills us. If we can improve on that, then we’ll be good.”
The 2021 Falcon-grad served as Mr. Reliable on the scoring end in Friday’s game as him and 2022 Silverton-grad Neil Efmiov each scored in double-figures in the defeat. The Storm had held first half leads of 13-5, 20-14 and 32-24 during the first half and held a 40-37 lead going into the halftime break, Efmiov hitting on a closing three-pointer to hand the hometown Chemeketa squad the narrow lead.
But the lead was short-lived as Wenatchee Valley took advantage of turnovers for a 13-4 run to start the second half, taking a 50-44 lead, before the Storm brewed up a rally and pulled the Knights back in. Eventually tying the game up following a Bernhard shot with 11:18 left in the game.
“It was a lot of fun for us. We’ve been practicing a lot, so to get a game situation like that is a lot of fun. Our guys played pretty hard,” Bernhard said.
“We just stayed true to ourselves, trusted each other and didn’t rush anything and stayed within our control,” adds Efmiov. “It showed us the beginning of College Basketball. What we could be and what we’re capable of. There’s lessons to be learned and we’ll go from here.”
Bernhard gave Chemeketa a 56-55 lead with 9:15 left following a WVC three and two baskets by the Storm. Carson Molan (Cascade) hit a three to push the Storm lead to four with 7:56 remaining, but Chemeketa couldn’t add to the lead with the Knights tied it at 59 at the 5:34 mark and surrender a Justin Loveless three that put the Washington-based team ahead with 3:45 left in regulation.
The Storm, despite seeing their next three shots not falling, held strong defensively. Eventually leading to Benard’s midrange jumper that drew the squad back to within one with 82 seconds remaining. Chemeketa’s defense remained tough, giving their offense another crack with under a minute to go. They missed a golden opportunity with 41 seconds left, but got the ball back quickly. The Storm ran a play with 18 seconds, couldn’t finish but got the ball back as the Knights called time with 5.5 left.
Chemeketa, out of the timeout, got the ball to Bernhard, who let it fly, but it barely missed its mark as the Storm couldn’t get a clean putback up in time for the win. Sealing a tough first defeat.
But they have next-to-no-time to dwell on the defeat as they’ll host Pierce Saturday back in Salem for a 5pm tip before hosting Treasure Valley Sunday at 3pm to close out the weekend. Giving the young squad an opportunity to rebound back stronger than ever.
“We got to come out with the same mentality and go from there. Be the aggressor on offense and be the aggressor on defense tomorrow,” Efimov said.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald