MISSION — The fire that the Echo boys’ basketball team captured on Friday against Arlington burned strong for at least one more night Saturday. After scoring 44 points in the second half to take down the Honkers, Echo unleashed a season-high 80 points against Nixyaawii in a crucial Big Sky Conference victory.
The Cougars’ 80-58 dismantling came in a matchup of the Big Sky East’s top two teams. Nixyaawii (9-11, 6-6 BSC) was lurking just a half game behind Echo (10-10, 7-4 BSC), which made some breathing room for now.
“Wins like this, it’s very big for us. We need to keep it up because we can’t have any letdowns this late in the season,” said Echo forward Dylan Enright, the provider of 20 points in Saturday’s win.
For as huge as the victory was for Echo, it was equally troublesome for Nixyaawii. The Golden Eagles are in the third and final spot in the standings that will make the Big Sky District Tournament in Hermiston, which starts Feb. 14.
In Saturday’s game, the second victory for Echo over the Eagles this season, the Cougars had the speed turned up right away. The game had the makings of a shootout into the second quarter. But after a Travis Bumgarner layup with a minute-plus left in the second quarter, one side went quiet.
Echo would tack on four quick points before intermission — including a putback jumper at the buzzer for Enright — to set the score at 44-36 halfway through the game. Out of the gate in the third quarter, the Cougars brought the ferocity with 17 straight points. Following a 23-2 run that lasted well into the later parts of the quarter, Echo had all but clinched the game.
Echo’s lead reached its highest point at 63-38 then.
“We just need to stay focused for four quarters of every game,” Nixyaawii coach Shane Rivera said. “We’re young. Sometimes we lose that focus for just a couple minutes and against a good team like Echo, that’s all you need is a minute or two without that focus. Then, bam, they’re up by 10.”
Echo coach Ben Campbell is seeing more and more lighting strikes like that. Echo has won three straight following its own three-game losing streak of league games that toppled the team from the top of the standings. But things are a little different now, he said.
“They’re starting to believe, and I think that’s the big thing,” he said.
Dalton Hughes was a point off Enright’s team-high with 19 and Treve Moffit and Connor Bettencourt each nabbed 13 rebounds, part of a 55-rebound assault for Echo. Brian Gutierrez had a game-high eight assists.
Hunter McKay led all scorers with 22 Nixyaawii points and Bumgarner scored 11 to go with 17 rebounds. The senior grabbed nine of those on the offensive end.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.