PENDLETON — After trailing by more than 15 points while sleepwalking through the first half, the Stanfield Tigers found themselves with the ball and down by just one with 30 seconds to play against Grant Union. With the Blue Mountain Conference’s No. 3 spot for the boys’ state basketball tournament on the line, the Tigers all of a sudden controlled the outcome.
Half a minute of game time later, though, it was still the Prospectors on top as a last-second 3-pointer bounced off the iron, securing the Prospector’s 47-46 victory. Despite the loss, the Tigers will still have a seat on the state train as the fourth and final team from the conference to move on.
On the Pros’ next possession, a quick foul sent shooter Kody Nelson to the free throw line for a 1-and-1 opportunity, but Nelson’s first shot banked off and into the hands of the Tigers. Out of a timeout, Stanfield advanced the ball to the 3-point arc where the Tigers swung passes around the outside, looking to hold possession for the last shot.
The team only needed a point to tie, so the plan was take it inside directly at the basket. But the Tigers couldn’t get the ball past the outer perimeter and after a Prospectors’ defender knocked it out of bounds with 6.3 ticks remaining, Stanfield tweaked its play calling.
“We tried to bet the ball to Bryce (Linker) and hopefully be able to get him a jump shot — he’s got a pretty sweet touch — and get him a look,” Stanfield coach Daniel Sharp said. “And I thought we still got a pretty good look on our backside guy and you can’t blame him. We didn’t lose that game then, we lost it in the first quarter.”
Angel ended up heaving up the shot from beyond the NBA 3-point line on the Pendleton Convention Center’s old Phoenix Suns floor. The ball had come his way after Linker was swarmed at the top of the arc by the Prospectors, obscuring any look at the basket he might have had.
“Bryce was coming with a screen to just pull up and shoot it, but he told me he wasn’t comfortable with it so he kicked it out to me,” Angel said. “I had to shoot it because I thought time was going to run out.”
Linker and Devin Haefer each had eight points, tops among Tigers, and Milan Davchevski was close behind with seven. Both Angel and Corey Baros finished with six.
Baros’ all came within a two-minute stretch early in the fourth quarter. He hit a pair of 3-pointers with a Linker layup squeezed in between, all crucial shots in the Tigers’ comeback effort. Stanfield trailed by a dozen prior to the mini run.
Baros’ 3s were the only made by Stanfield during the game, a 2-of-19 performance.
For the Tigers, who won the second-half 34-21, success came when they could care for the ball. Stanfield finished with 23 turnovers, but only two of those came in the fourth quarter. That possession-minded offensive play, coupled with more aggressive defense, nearly brought the Tigers back to life.
“We had to be gritty and a little bit more active, just kind of fight a little bit,” Sharp said. “And we were that way in the fourth quarter and the third quarter. We just dug too much of a hole in the first and second.
“I told the guys we only had two turnovers and 21 points (in the fourth quarter), so there’s a direct correlation there.”
The Tigers, who beat Weston-McEwen 56-54 on Friday to earn a state berth and eliminate the TigerScots, will have a week to recover from an exhausting two-game stay in Pendleton. Round 1 of the state bracket begins next Friday.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.