PILOT ROCK — A three-point play from junior Logan Thorne propelled the Pilot Rock Rockets to a 56-48 victory over Stanfield on Saturday night in a juicy, early matchup in the Blue Mountain Conference schedule.
With the win, the season record for Pilot Rock (7-0, 2-0 BMC) remained unblemished in the loss column, while Stanfield (4-2, 1-1 BMC) suffered its first defeat in league action.
The Rockets clung to a 50-48 lead with just north of three minutes to play in the game when Thorne took a hard foul while in the act of shooting. The ball rolled through the rim and Thorne sunk the ensuing free throw — his 14th and final point of the night — as the Rockets finished the game on a 6-0 run.
Stanfield was down and without two of its best shooters as Devin Bailey and Devin Haefer both fouled out within the next minute. The Rockets breathed a little easier with those two long-distance shooters on the bench, Thorne said.
“When their best player Devin Bailey fouled out, we knew it was going down hill for them there,” said Thorne of Stanfield’s 3-point machine.
The Tigers found foul trouble in the second half, picking up 15 as a team.
“Our defense is a trap defense, and I honestly have never seen one like our coach drew up this year,” Bailey said. “We’re running it great but our hands are going everywhere ... In our eyes, our defense was great. Sometimes you get calls and sometimes you don’t get calls.”
Bailey said he and many Tigers have run aground with foul trouble late in games because of their aggressive style. It can be a gamble to put the ball in the opponents’ hands at the free throw line and on Saturday, the Rockets used free throws to ice the game. They made five charity shots in the final minutes to help sustain the lead.
The Rockets shot 58 percent from the free throw line, not a great percentage, coach Doug Baxter said, but well ahead of where they’ve been at times this season.
Though they led for almost every second of the fourth quarter, the Rockets started the game very slow. They fell behind by as many as nine points right after halftime before storming back to make a game of it.
“We’re not going to quit when we’re having a little bit of adversity on the floor,” said Baxter, noting his Rockets had trouble handling the Tigers’ defense early in the game. “It’s just a matter of trying to tell the guys to settle down. There’s no true adjustment. We’re just trying to keep the ball out in the middle of the floor more and be strong with the ball and recognize when the trap is coming.”
Rebounding was another key to the comeback, Baxter said. Torne grabbed 10 to give him a double-double night and Tyler Simmons added 11 more. Tice Waite nabbed six boards, including two crucial offensive rebounds in the second half that led to second-chance points during the Rockets’ run for the lead.
Stanfield’s Bailey and Dino Ibarra tied for the team lead with 12 points each. Six foot, one inch Koty Kamm added seven points with 12 rebounds in a losing effort.