The Buckaroos continued their strong start to the season with a win in the opening round of the Red Lion Classic basketball tournament in Pendleton Friday night. Pendleton (4-0) held on for a 70-50 victory over Pasco (Wash.), recovering from a couple of big runs that the Bulldogs (0-4) made without faltering.
That’s proven to be a key difference from last year’s boys, head coach David Norton said. That team finished a positive 16-10 on the season, but could have won many more games when the score was close toward the end of regulation.
“Last year with some of the closer games, we didn’t know how to finish at the end of a game,” Norton said. “But (Friday night) against Pasco, when they would pull within 10 points three or four times, every time they made that run we were able to separate from them again.”
Pendleton’s Deon Davis dunks a ball in the Bucks’ win against the Pasco at the Red Lion Classic basketball tournament in Pendleton.
After being down by as many as 15 points near the end of the third quarter, Pasco closed that gap to 59-50 with 3:30 to play. After that, the Bucks turned a decently close game at that point into an apparent blowout, finishing the game on an 11-0 run.
The Bucks’ runs were cued by creating turnovers that led to breakaway points. Four players each registered three or more steals.
“That’s the way we want to play, just transition real quickly,” Norton said. “Our goal was to get deflections — not necessarily to get steals — but to lead to some bad passes.”
“It’s about worrying more about the defense in the game than the calls on the floor,” said Darius Polhamus, the Bucks’ senior guard who led the team with 22 points. Polhamus scored plenty despite missing large chunks of time with some dings and bruises he encountered during the physical contest.
The Pendleton defense led to several memorable offensive moments. Senior Deon Davis scored 19 points and had five steals that turned into five assists. Davis’ flashy passing — read behind-the-back and no-look passes — started many of the fast breaks.
A pair of breakaways also ended at his hand. Davis elevated for a massive one-handed dunk in each of the halfs. The plays temporarily demoralizing the opposition and acted like gasoline on an open flame for the fans at Warberg Court Friday.
Davis said when he sees an open court in front of him with no one to beat, he thinks of just one thing:
“With everyone in the stands, putting on a show for Pendleton so they come back,” Davis said. “We want them to come back for more games.”
With the win, Pendleton moves into the championship game of its own tournament and will play Clarkston (3-0) today at 1:30 p.m. The Washington school beat Sandpoint (Idaho) 60-31 earlier on Friday.