PENDLETON — The Stanfield Tigers would have a hard time scoring if they couldn’t find the ball.
The basketballs rocketed around the perimeter, back and forth, in a dizzying display of ball movement when Pilot Rock would gain possession. The Rockets would finish with 17 assists on their 23 made shots in a 65-37 dissecting of the Tigers on Tuesday at Pendleton’s Sunridge Middle School.
The Rockets’ (14-1, 7-0 Blue Mountain) speed and agility gave Stanfield (9-3, 3-3 BMC) fits as the repetitive motions left the Tigers looking lost on defense. All by design, said the Rockets’ CeeJay Medellin.
“It’s the key to winning games, but so is defense,” said Medellin, who had six of his team’s assists. “And when you pass the ball around like that, it’s harder to play defense on a team.”
Barkley, along with his 13 points, set up five other baskets with assists. Simmons did the same.
The passing performance left both sides in the lurch at times. Those Rockets’ no-look passes can be so convincing that even teammates are caught surprised.
“Oh all the time. They’ll do little jumps in the air and just toss it back from like two feet away and you’re not expecting it,” said post Jason GrosJacques, who also scored 13 points. “We do drills where we have to practice that so you’re ready for them to do it to you.”
The display wowed the crowed, but the battle on the boards is what truly trounced the Tigers. Pilot Rock held a rebounding advantage of 45-28. Medellin nabbed 15 of those and GrosJacques added eight, including six on the offensive glass.
Stanfield’s Michael Martinez had five for his team, but the rebounding issues were just one of the many areas Tuesday in which the Tigers looked lacking any spark, coach Daniel Sharp said.
The Tigers have lost three straight in Blue Mountain Conference play, all against great teams albeit, but Stanfield’s lack of energy is becoming alarming, he said. And the fix won’t be easy.
“I could yell, do jumping jacks and cartwheels, have pep assemblies and stuff, but I don’t think that’s going to fix it,” Sharp said. “We’ve got some young kids and I think that they’ve been rattled a little bit, but that’s no excuse for coming out and being lazy and not hustling.”
Devin Haefer was the lone Tiger to hit double digits scoring with 10 points. Izac Gonzalez scored six and Bryce Linker had five, but Stanfield shot only 21 percent as a whole.
The boys need to get back to the basics that led them to nine straight wins to open the year. The Tigers go into the weekend desperately needed a rebound victory, but a tough Weston-McEwen (9-6, 4-3 BMC) team comes to Stanfield on Friday in the next action.
Pilot Rock stays “home” on Saturday for another No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup for the Irrigon Knights at Pendleton High School. The Knights pounded Stanfield last Friday when the Tigers were ranked second by the OSAA in terms of RPI, and this week’s game features the newly silver Rockets.
The Knights (14-0, 6-0 BMC) are the last Class 2A undefeated in the state, and Pilot Rock coach Doug Baxter knows of the clout Irrigon is carrying this year. But outside of a tournament loss to Imbler in December, the Rockets aren’t looking too shabby either.
Especially right now, Baxter said.
“We’re playing really well right now. I just hope we didnt’ peak too early,” he said.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or (541) 966-0839.