MCDERMOTT — Just because a team is short on numbers doesn’t mean that the unit in question is short on fight and heart.
With the East Tartans’ boys basketball program down by an early 14-0 tally over the first five minutes of the affair, and Adam Bailey’s club trailing by as much as 21 points (29-8) in the first half, East, despite only playing seven guys against a deep and talented Mowrystown Whiteoak Wildcats’ boys basketball roster, used 16 second-half points from Will Shope and gritty play from seniors Zach Garrett and J.D. Hatcher, among others, to claw within 44-34 with just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter of action.
However, in clawing its way back into the contest from such a deficit, East, between making the sizeable deficit up and running out of gas with the limited depth, the Wildcats proved to be too much for the Tartans as Whiteoak defeated East, 68-43, on Wednesday evening in a Division III Sectional Semifinal that was held at Northwest High School in McDermott.
For Bailey, fighting back from the sizeable hole early on, with the limited depth, was, indeed, the difference in the affair.
“I believe that we dug ourselves ourselves such a big hole early, and got us down, that we just expended so much energy and fight just to get back into the contest,” Bailey said. “We cut the lead to 10 or 11 a couple of times there, but we were gassed from making that run. Five kids played primarily the whole game. We played a couple of sophomores that gave us some minutes here and there where we needed them, and hopefully, they’ll be able to take that forward into next year. I thought that we played extremely hard and fought back in order to give ourselves a chance.”
Over the first five minutes of the contest, the result did not look promising at all for East as Whiteoak reeled off 14 straight tallies to open up the game. Traeton Hamilton and Zach Rand scored 10 of those 14 points on their own as the duo proved to be a lethal inside-outside combination between Hamilton’s shooting and explosive first step and Rand’s low-post scoring down on the block. The Wildcats ultimately took a 20-6 first-quarter advantage at the break.
After Garrett — who scored a team-high six points for the Tartans — cut the lead to 20-8 with 7:29 to play in the first half, Whiteoak, again, went on another sizeable run as Trever Yeager scored six points in the second frame of action. Yeager, along with Hamilton and Rand, combined for 27 of the Wildcats’ 33 first-half points as Whiteoak took a 17-point advantage into the locker room.
“We gave up some easy buckets early,” Bailey said. “We didn’t box out really well, and on the few times that (Whiteoak) did miss, they got an offensive rebound, got an extra shot, and scored. We couldn’t buy anything early and turned it over a few times. It’s just hard in a tournament game, when you dig yourself a hole like that, to come all the way out of it.”
However, Shope, Garrett, and Hatcher, along with the rest of the East contingent, showed why the Tartans have always proven to be such a tough out during tournament contests.
Garrett — who again came up big by breaking the ice with a third-quarter opening basket — used his abilities to open up the floor for Shope, who canned a three-ball from 24 feet off of the right wing. The duo, along with Hatcher, then proceeded to lead East on an 11-4 run, with Shope nailing another tough basket in the paint and Hatcher drilling a three-pointer from the right corner, to cut the 21-point Whiteoak lead all the way down to a 44-34 margin. Shope mixed in his own buzzer-beating bucket from the middle of the lane to keep the deficit at a manageable fashion (47-36) heading into the fourth quarter of action.
For the contest, Shope finished with a game-high 20 points, while Garrett and Hatcher collected 10 and nine points, respectively, to aid East in its comeback attempt.
“Will played really well in that third quarter,” Bailey said. “J.D. came alive and he was part of why we played better in the third quarter, and I was really pleased with the way that Zach played tonight. For it being the last game of Zach’s high school career, I thought that he came out, played hard the entire game, and put forth a ton of effort. Hat’s off to him.”
However, Whiteoak’s depth was simply too much for East — limited in that same department — to overcome. In the final quarter of action, the Wildcats outscored the Tartans by a 21-7 count in the frame as six different players scored at least two points in the frame, including Yeager, Hamilton, Rand, and Stephen Ross, who all finished in double-figures with 19, 13, 13, and 12 points, respectively, in the victory.
With the loss, East (3-19) will see out four seniors on its unit, including Garrett, Hatcher, Devon Stevens, and Sam King. Each of the four are players that Bailey holds great admiration for because of the pride that the quartet took in fulfilling their roles on the unit.
“Devon’s a kid that hasn’t played a ton over the last three years, but he’s been one of the more reliable kids that we’ve had. He’s gotten a lot better throughout the year, and is just a fun kid to be around. I’m pleased that he was a part of our program. Sam’s a great kid. He’s a young man that shows up every day, works hard in practice, and gives us a look. Zach and J.D. have won a good deal of games in an East uniform, and are good kids. I appreciate everything that they’ve done for us, and hopefully, they go to the next step of their lives and become successful adults.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT
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