OROVILLE – Oroville’s boys basketball team gave its fans a Christmas gift that had the Hornets’ own coach scratching his head.
In their final game before breaking for the holidays, the Hornets scrambled back from a 26-point deficit to surprise Omak 73-69 in overtime on Wednesday, Dec. 21. Oroville trailed by 16 points heading into the fourth quarter, tied it for the first time with 1:25 left in regulation and didn’t take its first lead until 2:15 remained in overtime.
“Our biggest challenge is getting these guys ready for the start of the game,” said Oroville coach Allen Allie. “They just don’t seem to get up for the start of games other than against Tonasket, and we haven’t figured out yet what buttons to push.
“They found a way tonight, but they’ll have a tough time if they can’t focus. The really good teams could make a game like this turn pretty ugly.”
It looked like this would be one of those games as the Pioneers used four first quarter 3-pointers, including two by Marvin Frank, to take a 21-1 lead. Michael Garrett and Zack Speiker finally got the Hornets’ first baskets in the last 30 seconds of the quarter, but Country Pakootas finished off the first with a trey to start another 7-0 run that left the Hornets trailing 31-5 with seven minutes left in the half.
Oroville still trailed 38-12 late in the half before heading into the break with a nine-point run that cut the deficit to 17.
“I told them (at the half) I wasn’t going to yell at them,” Allie said. “They needed to find it within themselves to do it, and I’m not sure they believed they could. They thanked me after the game for not yelling at them, so maybe it was what I didn’t say more than what I did say.”
After twice cutting the lead to 11 points in the third quarter, the Hornets still had a 53-37 hole to climb out of entering the final period.
The Hornets turned their desperation into points, running off a 16-2 flurry in just three minutes that had the Pioneers reeling, even though they still led 55-53. Garrett and Connor Hughes sparked that run with their outside shooting, and C.J. Mathews finally drew the Hornets even with a pair of steal-and-scores, including a nifty 360-degree layup around an Omak defender on one.
“We finally got Connor and Michael going at the same time,” Allie said. “And C.J. made some big plays.”
Though Garrett (26 points), Mathews (20) and Hughes (15) combined for all but 12 of the Hornets’ points, it took heroics all around to finish off the comeback. Dylan Rise scored his only two points of the game with five seconds left after rebounding Garrett’s missed shot to force overtime. Luke Kindred scored his only four points in overtime, both times tying the score after Omak had taken the lead.
And Speiker, who spent most of the game tangling with Joseph LaGrou for rebounds, corralled Hughes’ missed free throw with eight seconds left in overtime and canned a pair of his own at 3.3 seconds to put the Hornets safely ahead by four points.
LaGrou and Vince Carden paced the Pioneers (6-4) with 17 points apiece, with Pakootas adding 15 and Ryder Lewis 11.
“The second half is what this team should be,” Allie said. “Once we started taking it to the hole offensively, we got them in some foul trouble and it opened things up for us outside.
“If we can just start games the way we finish them, this team can do some things.”