EAST WENATCHEE – It wasn’t easy, but few things are come playoff season.
The Oroville boys basketball team clinched a spot in the regional round of 16 — formerly known as the first round of the state tournament — with a 60-58 victory over Warden on Friday, Feb. 17.
Not even a 59-38 loss less than 24 hours later to the same Riverside Christian team the Hornets beat earlier in the week could put a damper on Oroville’s accomplishment.
“I’m happier than heck with the way we played all week,” said Oroville coach Allen Allie. “The second half on Saturday wasn’t so great, but I can’t be disappointed with our week at all.
“We met our objective (to get to the regional round). The kids are excited and looking forward to playing Friday.”
The Hornets’ loss to Riverside Christian may have actually worked a bit to their advantage. For one, it means they will be playing Friday’s 8 p.m. game at Mt. Spokane High School, rather than at Walla Walla, where they would have gone with a victory.
And while they are still playing a number one seed with a trip to the eight-team state tournament on the line, it’s not the top team they thought they’d be playing. Colfax (18-5) upset previously-unbeaten, defending state champion Northwest Christian (Colbert) in District 7 tournament play. And while an Oroville victory would still be quite an upset, at least they are playing a team that has been beaten several times this season.
A victory lands the winner a spot in the state tournament next Thursday at the Spokane Arena, while the loser’s season is over. The single-elimination regional round is the third different permutation of the round of 16 in three years.
“We’ll play our hearts out, win or lose,” Allie said. “We work as hard as anyone else; every team that’s still playing works hard. So it just comes down to whose kids play better that night. If they aren’t at their best and it leaves the door open for us, that would be great.
“We’ve really got nothing to lose. I just want the kids take the court on Friday as excited as they are right now.”
Riverside Christian 59, Oroville 38
The Hornets, playing their fourth game in six days with a six-man rotation, wore down in the second half against a Crusader team with revenge on its mind.
Oroville beat Riverside Christian 66-52 in the tournament’s opening round and had a 24-23 halftime lead. Fatigue and frustration with the officiating took the Hornets out of their game in the second half.
“We ran out of steam and got frustrated with some of the calls being made and not made,” Allie said. “But that’s just part of the game, and we need to learn to adapt to the way the game is being called. That’s just part of it.”
Tucker Jones scored 2 points and Luke Vickers hit five 3-pointers and finished with 19 to lead the Crusaders (19-5), who earned a trip as the No. 3 seed to Walla Walla.
Michael Garrett and Connor Hughes each scored 11 for the Hornets (14-10).
Oroville 60, Warden 58
The Hornets won a nip-and-tuck battle that was close from start to finish on Friday, Feb. 17, eliminating the Cougars from the post-season and keeping their own playoff run alive.
Connor Hughes hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with just over a minute to play, and Oroville held on as Warden had four seconds for a potential game-tying or game-winning shot that never materialized.
“They had to start fouling, but only had three team fouls (with a minute to play),” Allie said. “It ended up working to our advantage as we were able to work the ball around before they could foul us and ran a lot of time off the clock.”
Hughes finished with 23 points and Garrett had 14, but Dylan Rise hit a pair of huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, while Zack Speiker and C.J. Mathews combined for 15 crucial points.
“The kids were pressured to win, and they did,” Allie said. “We didn’t play our best game, but we did what we had to do. I couldn’t really have asked for more.”
Lake Roosevelt 65, Oroville 47
Lake Roosevelt, which went on to rip White Swan in Saturday’s district championship game, pulled away from the Hornets late in the first quarter and never looked back in a 65-47 semifinal victory on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
Ty Egbert’s defensive presence disrupted Oroville’s offense until he came out in the fourth quarter, after which the Hornets made a bit of a run to close what had been a 26-point gap.
Egbert led all scorers with 22 points, with Keith Rosenbaum adding 15.
Garrett finished with 21, Hughes had 10 and Mathews 8 for the Hornets.