The No. 6-ranked South Wasco County High Redsides (24-2) boys basketball team is now a two-time Class 1A Big Sky League District Champion following a thrilling 59-57 win over the Spray/Mitchell/Wheeler High Eagles (16-5) on Feb. 18 at The Dalles High School.
South Wasco is heading into the 32-team OSAA state playoffs with momentum. The Redsides were seeking to advance to a Feb. 25 second-round game against the winner of a first-round matchup between the Perrydale High Pirates (17-10) and the Union High Bobcats (22-5). A Redside win in their first-round contest Tuesday versus the Days Creek High Wolves (result was after the printed edition deadline) would’ve propelled South Wasco onto the second round playoff game.
South Wasco junior forward Joey Holloway played the role of hero as he sank a game-winning, buzzer-beating 10-foot jumper in the lane to help lead the Redsides to the win over the Eagles.
In the close, see-saw contest that included numerous ties and lead changes, it was knotted 18-18 after one and the Redsides led 34-33 at halftime. South Wasco extended its narrow advantage to 49-46 after three quarters.
The Eagles came back in the fourth, outscoring the Redsides 11-5 to take what seemed like a comfortable lead with just 1:30 remaining in the contest. The Redsides, guided by Coach Jim Hull, then made an 8-0 game-winning rally.
“You don’t give up and you just get after it and you keep telling yourself that it (comeback) is going to happen, and we’ll make it happen, but it doesn’t always work,” said Hull. “That’s the mentality that winners have. A winner always believes that it’s going to happen and that you’re going to win. Even if you lose, you still have the mentality of a winner and our players have embraced that attitude. We just scratched and clawed our way back to get a win and our seniors (Ian Ongers, James Best) played a great game.”
Ongers showed why he was chosen as the Big Sky League Player of the Year scoring 27 points for the Redsides.
“It feels great to be district champions and bring our team here and have a big crowd and win it again for a second straight year,” said Ongers. “It’s amazing and it’s a good way to end my senior year. You just have to believe in your ability to come back and if you believe in yourself enough to face adversity, then you can overcome a deficit late in the game. We’re always able to make a comeback in any kind of situation like that. It also feels great to win the player-of-the-year award because I worked hard all year and it fulfills a dream that I’ve had for four years at South Wasco County High School.”
Holloway came in clutch for South Wasco down the stretch. He converted a three-point shot attempt to tie the game at 57.
Following a missed scoring opportunity on the Eagles ensuing possession, Best grabbed the rebound and then he helped his team get into position for a game-winning basket. The Redsides took a couple of shots that bounced off the rim, but Holloway calmly grabbed a rebound of a missed shot and he scored on the putback jumper at the buzzer to help lead South Wasco to the win.
“It was a crazy ending and it’s the first time I’ve ever made a game-winning shot and it’s the highlight of my athletic career for sure,” said Holloway. “We had a great season a year ago and we’re just trying to duplicate the same thing this year by going to the state playoffs again. It’s just been an absolutely amazing season for us. I feel pretty good about the state playoffs and I feel confident that we can win two playoffs games and then reach the state tournament in Baker (March 1-4). That’s been our goal since the beginning of the season.”
Following the win, the Redsides celebrated on the court with loud cheers, and the traditional cutting of the net as players and coaches took turns with the scissors.
The Redsides advanced to the district championship game following a 63-61 win over the Ione/Arlington High Cardinals (12-12) in a district semifinal Thursday at South Wasco County High School. The Redsides overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to get the thrilling come-from-behind win and reach the Big Sky title game a third straight year. Best (15 points, four assists, four steals) scored the game winning basket on a driving layup in the lane with 5.1 seconds left to help lead the Redsides to the victory.
“You couldn’t ask for more kids to just step up and play hard when we were down by 10,” said Hull. “We knew that we would have a good run and we just needed to make the game chaos towards the end, because that’s the only way we would be able to come back. We haven’t been down very often this year, but they never gave up and they played their hearts out.”
Ongers led the Redsides in scoring with 19 points, Storm McCoy had 14 and Joey Holloway had 10 points.
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