UMATILLA — The last time the Umatilla Vikings and Irrigon Knights met back on Feb. 17, 2017, at The Pit at Umatilla High School, the Knights used some late magic to knock off the Knights to capture the district title.
The two teams met for the first time in 2018 on Friday night back at The Pit and the game nearly followed the same exact script, right down to the end result.
The Vikings erased a six-point deficit in the final three minutes of play to stun the Knights 42-39, handing the Knights their first loss of the season and extending their win streak over their league rival to four straight.
“Oh man this feels great,” said Umatilla junior Trent Durfey after the win, smiling from ear-to-ear. “We just wanted to come in and play our game and hopefully get the win and that’s what we did. We wanted to start off league 1-0.”
The Vikings (13-3 overall, 1-0 Eastern Oregon League) led for the entire third quarter and seemed in control until the Knights (13-1, 2-1) made a run early in the fourth, tying the game at 31-31 and eventually running out to a 39-33 lead with three minutes left.
It forced Umatilla to call a timeout and regroup to make one last push, where head coach Scott Bow said he used a familiar message to spark his team to the finish line.
“Whether it’s a coincidence or not, it’s the same message we gave a few weeks ago at Nixyaawii when we were down to start the fourth quarter there,” Bow said. “I told the kids our defense has got to do it’s thing. They (Irrigon) have 39 and we have to keep them below 41 to win this game. We can score more than 40, but we won’t be able to win this if they score more than 41 and sure enough, we held them scoreless the rest of the way.”
A 3-pointer by Uriel Garcia and a fast-break lay-in by Seth Cranston off of an Irrigon turnover had the Vikings right back in it, trailing 39-38 with 1:30 left. After another Irrigon turnover, Kaden Webb’s floater with 45 seconds left gave the Vikings a 40-39 lead. And then, off yet another Knights missed shot and yet another turnover, Umatilla quickly moved the ball down the court to Durfey for a lay-in while drawing a foul for a 42-39 lead with eight seconds left, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.
“I was just thinking, ‘Hey, I’m wide open. Get me the ball and see what I can do with it,’” Durfey recalled thinking while the ball moved down the court. “All I could think then was hopefully I make it, that’s all I wanted to do was just make it. When it went in, I was pumped.”
And that Umatilla defense, which was outstanding down the stretch, came up huge again as the unit did not allow the Knights to get off a last-second shot attempt to try and tie the game before the buzzer sounded.
The game was a defensive battle for both sides, as both the Knights and Vikings scored season-low in points and had double-digit turnovers. Irrigon’s 39 points was far below its previous low of 54 and Umatilla’s 42 broke its previous low of 43 points set 10 days ago in a loss to Kennewick.
“Our defense was great and we’re going to rely on it,” Bow said. “This might be the lowest points we’ve score all year, it probably is for them, too. That’s two defensive teams going at it and we were just lucky enough to get the last run there to finish the game.”
Christian De Loera was the Vikings’ high scorer with 10 points off the bench, all of which came off the bench in the first half. The junior post gave the Vikings some standout play in the first half for Umatilla as he filled in for Durfey who got in early foul trouble, giving the Vikings some much-needed offense and solid defense inside on Irrigon big man Johnny Phillips.
“He did great and I was so happy for him,” Durfey said of De Loera. “I was a little frustrated with my foul calls but I loved seeing him step up ... you always love seeing your teammates come in and step up in a big game like this and play great.”
On the Irrigon side, it was mainly a one-man show on offense as Phillips was the only Knight to reach double-digits with a game-high 20 points, adding 12 rebounds and three blocks as well. Irrigon did not make a single 3-pointer in the game, going 0-for-11, and the team shot just 35-percent overall.
Irrigon took advantage of the game to start things, jumping out to an 11-4 lead before Umatilla battled back to get within 11-9 at the end of the quarter. The Vikings then led 21-19 at halftime and 31-29 at the end of the third quarter before the Vikings made their run. Overall, there were eight lead changes and six ties in Friday’s game at The Pit, which held a standing room-only crowd that brought about a spirited atmosphere for the game.
“I’ve been to a lot of high school games around here, but when we have standing room-only for the league opener here at The Pit is awesome,” Bow said. “I can’t wait to see what the game at Irrigon looks like in a few weeks.”
IHS 11 8 10 10 — 39
UHS 9 12 10 11 — 42
IRRIGON — J. Phillips 20, E. Carillo 8, A. Gomez 4, A. Roa 3, K. Fleming 2, J. Sandoval, D. Vera, P. Holcomb.
UMATILLA — C. DeLoera 10, S. Cranston 9, U. Garcia 5, S. Garcia 5, K. Webb 5, T. Durfey 4, M. Garcilazo 4, G. Armenta.
3-pointers — IHS 0, UHS 3. Free throws — IHS 5-8, UHS 3-13. Fouls — IHS 16, UHS 9.
Contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.