PENDLETON — The Pendleton Buckaroos and Clarkston Bantams (WA) were handcuffed together through three quarters a change. Neither boys’ basketball team could create any distance from the other and five points had stood as the largest margin of separation.
But tied 41-41 about half way through the fourth quarter, the Bantams' Kage Sobotta sprung to life, sparking a 10-0 run to help Clarkston pull away for a 53-46 victory Saturday in the final game of the Red Lion Classic in Pendleton.
At 51-41 and only three minutes to respond, the Bucks (2-1) were noticeably shaken. The game was beginning to slip.
“That one No. 3 (Sobotta), he just killed us,” Pendleton post Joel Boozer said. “Even with hands in his face he still made it. Some of those were our fault but he’s a good shooter.
“We tried to tell each other to go to the outside and then once we did that they didn’t hit as much, but in that once stretch they hit a couple and No. 30 (Sperry) would come from the high post.”
The Bantams spread the Bucks’ defense too thin. Wherever a Pendleton man stood ready to defend, Clarkston would turn the other way. And the Bantams were as deadly from both angles.
Sperry’s 13 points trailed only Sobotta, who scored 21. The junior guard tallied each of his points on the 3-ball, declining to even attempt a shot from inside the arc.
Sobotta’s long-range missiles were a big part of the Clarkston victory as the guard sunk 6-of-7 shots in the second half to finish 7-of-13 shooting on the day.
“Luckily, I got a little bit of space and my teammates found me,” Sobotta said. “We like the in-and-out game and our posts are really good at that. Getting the ball inside, then they’re really good at kicking it back out.”
Clarkston shot 50 percent from 3-point range with 11 made baskets with help from Bantam DePaul Blunt who made 3-of-4.
A day after drubbing the Sandpoint Bulldogs (ID) for 79 points in a 33-point victory to open the Red Lion Classic at Pendleton High, the Bucks’ shooters were a slowed-down version of themselves Saturday.
In the first half, only Quincy George was firing at the top of his game. The senior guard was as dangerous shooting 3s as Sobotta would be minutes later. George had 11 points at halftime with nine coming from 3-pointers.
The Bucks trailed 26-23 at the end of the second quarter, though, after Clarkston had taken its largest lead of the game at that point a minute earlier.
Out of the locker room in the third quarter, George looked like he was ready to rally the Bucks to a second-half surge, hitting his fourth 3-pointer on the first possession of the quarter to tie the game. But George’s shooting turned chilly from that moment on and he’d add only two more points to finish with a team-high 16.
Instead it was Boozer that visited the basket most often in the second half. He scored eight of his 12 after intermission without missing a shot, and finished shooting 5-of-7 from the field.
A first-quarter ankle injury to Pendleton starter Logan Anderson gave the Bucks a different look for the latter section of the matchup. The 5-foot-11 shooter was most often replaced in the lineup by another big man as the 6-5 Boozer and 6-foot-6 Tommy Lane shared the floor.
“We just really felt that that was our best lineup at the end of the game. We’re not the deepest team so that was our best option,” Pendleton coach David Norton explained.
Boozer benefited from the big back up. Clarkston had to account for both players, which opened up Boozer for some inside passes. Pendleton assisted on six shots from the inside in the second half, three coming from guard Donte Robinson.
Lane’s largest contribution came on the rebounding front. The senior led the team with eight boards — the same number that Sperry matched for the Bantams.
Pendleton grabbed only 24 rebounds total, 10 below Friday’s number that the Bucks felt was already low. Some of that came because of low shot totals — Clarkston made 19-of-48 and Pendleton made 18-of-41 shots.
But not all of it.
“I probably could have done a little better because I didn’t box out sometimes,” Pendleton’s Boozer said, “but what really killed us was turnovers.”
The Bucks turned the ball over 21 times, about a third coming on traveling calls, to cut down on their possessions.
After averaging better than 73 points per game in their opening two wins, the Bucks will try and regain the scoring grace when Walla Walla (WA) comes to visit Pendleton on Tuesday. That game tips off at 7 p.m.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or (451) 966-0839.