IRRIGON — With 1:45 left on the game clock inside Irrigon High’s gym, Catlin Gabel sophomore Jett Sheng hit a 3-pointer to knot the score at 47 points apiece — capping off a 11-4 run by the visiting team.
There had been only one other tie when the No. 9 Eagles took on the No. 8 Irrigon Knights in the first round of the playoffs, and that was in the first two minutes of play.
The Knights stayed in control for almost the entire game, but head coach Davie Salas was beginning to think about overtime as the clock ticked down with neither team scoring.
Catlin Gabel had a few chances, but they resulted in turnovers and Irrigon’s Johnny Phillips tried for field goal to regain the lead only to miss with 40 seconds left to play.
Each team had just one more chance to win in regulation.
With 14 seconds remaining, the Eagles are called for an over-and-back to give the Knights the ball.
Then with only 0.6 to go and the score still tied at 47-47, Irrigon’s Adrian Roa received the inbound, and as he fell back, he heaved the ball toward the net.
It bounced of the front of the rim, hit the backboard, again touched the front of the rim before finally dropping in to give the Knights (21-4 overall, 7-3 Eastern Oregon Leauge) a three-point advantage and the 50-47 win.
“I’m pretty amazed by coming out — there was sixth tenths of a second left, we just had to get a shot off real quick,” Roa said. “If everybody wasn’t doing there part it would have never happened.”
It took a team effort to hold off the Eagles (22-6 overall, 14-2 Lewis & Clark League) on Saturday evening. Catlin Gabel came to town with a 6-foot-9 senior post, Ned Williamson, and dynamic young shooters that helped lead the team to a victory in 13 of its last 15 games.
“We saw them on video and the young kids shot a lot,” Salas said. “I told the guys that eventually those are going to fall, regardless of whether they hit them in the game we saw.”
But in the first half, those shots weren’t falling. Catlin Gabel had trouble buying a basket and went 5-for-20 from the field and only 2-for-6 from behind the arc, which put the Eagles down 27-19 at halftime.
Senior Rowan Hoffman and junior Sasha Agapiev scored the bulk of the Eagles’ 19 first-half points — Hoffman recorded five of his 12 total points and Agapiev six of his team-best 13.
“Shooters keep shooting,” Salas added, “and (their shots) fell in the second half and they were able to come back, close our lead.”
At one point, before the tie late in the fourth quarter, Catlin Gabel came within two possessions of Irrigon, but three’s Covarrubia extended the Knights’ slight lead.
Half way through the third quarter, the Eagles were inching closer on a quick 8-3 run but Covarrubia stepped back to his first of two 3-pointers to push Irrigon’s lead back to eight points.
Again, to open the fourth quarter, Covarrubia hit a three after Catlin Gabel scored six unanswered points.
Even with Roa’s buzzer-beater and senior Eric Carrillo’s game-best 14 points, Covarrubia impressed Salas with his effort and hustle late in the game.
“He’s been the starting point guard here for two years and late in the games, he’s kind of had trouble with turnovers but today, and versus Umatilla, he was solid,” Salas said. “He was starting to get that confidence that I saw within him as a sophomore. ... He stepped up tonight, got to the paint, and had some really great defensive plays.”
Covarrubia finished behind Carrillo with 13 points, and his big defensive stops with less than a minute left in the game were pivotal in Irrigon’s victory.
“I tell the kids all the time that individually I’m not sure how great of players we are but together, and together I know we can be very special,” Salas said.
Irrigon’s postseason continues in Coos Bay on Thursday with a matchup against No. 1 De La Salle North Catholic in the quarterfinals. The Knights are 24-1 with their last loss, a 58-49 defeat, on Dec. 8 at a non-league tournament against Horizon Christian.
CGHS 11 8 17 11 — 47
IHS 17 10 13 10 — 50
CATLIN GABEL — S. Agapiev 13, R. Hoffman 12, J. Sheng 7, F. Langlois 5, U. McGutha 4, N. Williamson 4, J. Girard 2.
IRRIGON — E. Carrillo 14, L. Covarrubia 13, A. Roa 6, J. Phillips 6, K. Flemming 4, D. Vera 3, A. Gomez 2, P. Holcomb 2.
3-pointers — CGHS 3, IHS 9. Free throws — CGHS 10-13, IHS 1-2. Fouls — CGHS 6, IHS 9.
Contact Alexis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4542. Follow her on Twitter @almansanarez.