IRRIGON — With the Irrigon Knights grasping on to a two-point lead with only three seconds left, Knights’ forward Johnny Phillips nervously watched as Umatilla’s Kaden Webb launched a half-court heave as the final seconds of the game ticked away. The shot looked good as it flew through the air, before it clanked off the backboard and the side of the rim as the buzzer sounded, clinching a 50-48 Irrigon victory in front of a boisterous crowd on Thursday night at Irrigon High School.
“I was nervous for sure,” an elated Phillips said afterward. “It took me a couple of seconds to register, but I’m glad it missed.”
It was a long-awaited celebration for the Knights, who had lost four straight to the rival Vikings dating back to last season. The Vikings handed the Knights their first loss of the season just 13 days ago on Jan. 12, and Thursday night was a game they were looking forward to.
“It feels really good,” Phillips said. “We had to work hard and play good defense tonight. We knew it was going to be a tough one, but we did what we needed to and came out with the win and we’re excited about that.”
The 6-foot-5 Phillips has been the Knights’ (17-2 overall, 6-1 EOL) go-to guy on offense but was held scoreless in the first half as Irrigon trailed 18-16 at the break.
However, in the second half Phillips pounded in 16 points, eight of Irrigon’s last 11, to lead the charge to victory. He also added 11 rebounds and three blocks to his line.
“I just couldn’t get a handle in that first half,” Phillips said of his night, “but I came out better in the second. I finally got my feet under me and got going.”
Both teams’ defenses controlled the game in the first half, as the Knights and Vikings (15-5, 3-2) combined to shoot just 12 for 45 (26 percent) from the floor with 18 turnovers for 34 points. The second half, though, played out completely different as the offenses took over with 64 combined points and just 10 turnovers.
There were seven lead changes and seven ties in the second half, with the Knights holding the lead for the final 2:42.
“The last few games with us all could’ve gone either way and came down to who can execute the best down the stretch, including this one,” Irrigon coach Davie Salas said. “The last time, we had a lead with two minutes left, too, but we got careless with the ball, tonight we didn’t.
“It was a fun, exciting game and my hat’s off to them (Umatilla). These are tough, emotional games but these are fun games and who every pays money to see these are lucky.”
Behind Phillips, Eric Carillo scored 14 points and hit some big shots in the second half and Adrian Roa finished with 10 points. Irrigon was a near-perfect 9 for 10 from the free throw line and shot 50 percent from the floor in the second half.
Kaden Webb scored a game-high 21 points for Umatilla and Sebastian Garcia nailed four 3-pointers to boost him to a 17-point performance as well. The Vikings struggled inside the 3-point arch, shooting 7 for 27 (26 percent), including 0 for 4 in the final quarter.
But coach Scott Bow said his team coming up short in the game isn’t exactly a disappointment.
“You add 30 seconds on the clock, like the game at our house, and they could’ve went either way,” Bow said. “This was one of those games where you have 32 minutes to figure it out, and at the end they had the two-point lead just like we had the lead at our place. So it’s not really disappointing because the kids played tough, played really well.”
The win gives Irrigon a two-game lead over Umatilla and Nyssa for the lead in the Eastern Oregon League, but Salas said the Knights can’t get too comfortable with it.
“I told the kids to have fun tonight and enjoy it, but we don’t want to stop here,” Salas said. “We still have a lot of work left to do and our goals are bigger than just beating Umatilla. But it feels good to get this one and give us some confidence going down the road.
“And if we both keep doing what we’re doing and don’t lose focus, we’ll probably see each other again soon.”
UHS 13 5 14 16 — 48
IHS 12 4 16 18 — 50
UMATILLA — K. Webb 21, S. Garcia 17, C. De Loera 4, T. Durfey 2, S. Cranston 2, G. Armenta 2, M. Garcilazo.
IRRIGON — J. Phillips 16, E. Carillo 14, A. Roa 10, D. Vera 6, L. Covarrubia 2, P. Holcomb 2, O. Vera, A. Gomez, K. Fleming.
3-pointers — UHS 6, IHS 4. Free throws — UHS 16-21, IHS 9-10. Fouls — UHS 15, IHS 11.
IRRIGON 56, UMATILLA 36 — At Irrigon, the home Knights moved into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Oregon League with a big win over Umatilla on Thursday night.
Jada Burns led the Knights (16-3 overall, 5-2 EOL) with a game-high 19 points and Ana Zacarias scored 12 points, 10 of which came in the third quarter alone. Taylor Davis also had a big game, scoring nine points with 10 rebounds, seven steals and five assists.
“Defensively we played hard and forced some turnovers in the first half to build a nice lead,” Irrigon coach Mike Royer said. “I liked the way we passed the ball tonight.”
Devina Monreal led the Vikings (3-16, 0-5) with nine points and Lauryn Journot added six.
UHS 4 5 9 18 — 36
IHS 17 13 18 8 — 56
UMATILLA — D. Monreal 9, L. Journot 6, Reyes 4, Ford 4, Alvarez 4, Ortiz 4, Lorence 3, Picker 2.
IRRIGON — J. Burns 19, A. Zacarias 12, T. Davis 9, N. Romero 7, B. Rice. O. Luna 2, M. Davis 2, A. Luna 2.
3-pointers — UHS 6, IHS 2. Free throws — UHS 6-10, IHS 8-12.
Contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.