IRRIGON — In Irrigon, Friday was the Knights first appearance in their own invitational despite the fact play began on Thursday.
Due to inclement weather, both the boys and girls games were canceled and the teams would have to wait until Friday to take the court again.
It was certainly worth the wait as the host school swept Pilot Rock in a doubleheader on Day 2 of the invitational. The girls handed Pilot Rock its first loss at the invite, while the boys ran away with a 81-71 after Pilot Rock was unable to execute an upset.
After the girls bested the Rockets 47-41, the boys took the court at Irrigon Elementary.
The change in venue occurred earlier in the day when the high school gym roof began to leak. All games were moved to the elementary school gym across the street.
The packed house witnessed quite possibly the Knight’s most electrifying game of the season, as they outlasted the Rockets to remain perfect on the season.
“It’s an emotional game,” head coach Davie Salas said. “I’m sure Pilot Rock always wants to beat the Irrigon kids and vice versa.”
The opening quarter was a good indication of how close the game would be, as the teams ended the first eight minutes with the score knotted at 17 points apiece.
“When you take a team lightly, and that’s what happened, you get a scare like that,” Salas added.
Pilot Rock’s two bigs, Chris Weinke and Bryson Pierce, had a huge presence inside while Irrigon was finding its groove in transition. The pair scored a bulk of Pilot Rock’s points, as Pierce finished with a game-high 33 and Weinke dished out 18.
“We did a good scouting report,” Salas said. “We knew who was going to get the ball, (Chris) Weinke and (Bryson Pierce), (they’re) just good ball players and we knew that.”
In the second quarter, the lead changed four times before Pilot Rock went on a 7-1 run to have the upper hand at 28-22 with just over five minutes until halftime.
The Rockets would hold on to that lead and enter the break up 41-39 as Weinke hit a jumper at the buzzer.
This was the first time all season the Knights were down at the half. The only other time they were in trouble at the break was when they were tied 32-32 with Mac-Hi on Dec. 19.
To bounced back in the second half, the message from Salas was simple.
“Settle down, relax,” Salas told the group at half time.
“When we panic, we don’t play well,” he then said after the game, “but when we are able to move the ball a little bit and pick our spots like we usually do when we’re settled, everything looks great.”
Although the game remained close throughout the next two quarters, Irrigon was slowly gaining the upper hand.
Thanks to a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Eric Carrillo — who finished with eight points — and another three from Lino Covarrubia to open the fourth, the Knights went on a 4-2 run to put the pressure back on the Rockets.
Emotions were running high as the two teams battled it out. Two technicals were given, one to each team. Keith Fleming received on in the first quarter after exchanging words with a Rocket, and Pilot Rock’s Levi Thieme was tagged with one in the fourth for the same offense.
It was only after the technical that a win looked more and more probable for Irrigon.
Carrillo sunk three of the four free throws he was awarded because of the foul and the technical and from there the Knights sailed to its 11th straight win.
“You need these games,” Salas said. “It lets you know you’re not invincible. It lets you know you’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The Knights were led by Keith Flemming, who knocked down 26 points — 15 of which came in the second half. Johnny Phillips also played a key role in the victory, and contributed 16 points of his own to Irrigon’s total.
A day off surprisingly hurt the Knights more than it helped them. Despite showing fatigue against the Rockets, who looked fresh after defeating Mac-Hi 56-34 on Thursday, Irrigon was able to hold on and outlast Pilot Rock to claim its fourth consecutive win.
Irrigon had a steady lead after the first two quarters.
The Knights outscored the Rockets 16-4 in the first and entered halftime up 24-17. But even with the upperhand entering the final two quarters, Irrigon’s sluggish second quarter and rocky third gave Pilot Rock a chance to strike back.
“I thought we started the game (well), the first quarter was good for us,” head coach Mike Royer said. “We shot the ball pretty well and we passed it well and I think defensively we played with energy (but) we got tired and you could tell — we had trouble buying a basket in the third quarter. Nothing seemed to drop. We had opportunities to pull away a little bit but we never could.”
It was the Rockets who entered the second half with momentum. A late 7-1 run brought them only a few possessions behind the Knights.
They cut their deficit to as little as three points with three minutes left in the third quarter.
“We made a couple of sloppy passes because we were tired,” Royer said. “We didn’t shoot that well toward the end of the second quarter either and you have to keep shooting the ball and shot it with confidence.”
At that point, it was Pilot Rock playing with confidence while Irrigon struggled on offense. The Knights defensive efforts were giving them plenty of opportunities in transition, but they just couldn’t find the basket.
A late effort from Brianna Rice off the bench in the fourth quarter gave Irrigon some momentum as it was able to hold off Pilot Rock’s final push.
“Those were big points because that’s when Pilot Rock was really making a push,” Royer said.
Rice scored all eight of her points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of three’s.
However, it was Jada Burns who again led the Knights with 10 points. Three players chipped in eight points, Ana Zacarias, Kylie Wyant and Rice.
For Pilot Rock, Sara Weinke led with 15 points.
PR 4 13 9 15 — 41
IHS 16 8 9 14 — 47
PILOT ROCK — S. Weinke 15, G. Austin 8, K. Deist 7, L. Brewer 4, K. Evans 4, R. Oates 3.
IRRIGON — J. Burns 10, A. Zacarias 8, B. Rice 8, K. Wyant 8, T. Davis 6, N. Romero 5, O. Luna 2.
3-pointers — PR 2, IHS 4. Free throws — PR 7-13, IHS 5-14. Fouls — PR 15, IHS 16.
PR 17 24 13 17 — 71
IHS 17 22 18 24 — 81
PILOT ROCK — B. Pierce 33, C. Weinke 18, R. Lankford 10, L. Thieme 6, L. Weinke 2, C. Munker 1, P. Thumond 1.
IRRIGON — K. Flemming 26, J. Phillips 16, L. Covarrubia 11, E. Carrillo 8, A. Roa 7, A. Gomez 6, D. Vera 4, L. Carrillo 3.
3-pointers — PR 7, IHS 5. Free throws — PR 14-27, IHS 23-39. Fouls — PR 28 (Pierce, Thieme, Weinke, Key fouled out), IHS 23 (Phillips fouled out).
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.