ECHO — When the season began, first-year Pilot Rock coach Tyler Zyph set a goal for his team — an undefeated preseason.
On Saturday, that goal was met.
The Pilot Rock boys finished their program’s first showing at Echo’s Bouncin’ Cancer basketball tournament with a massive 82-47 win over Helix to improve to 10-0 on the season before Blue Mountain Conference action tips off on Friday.
The tournament raises funds for cancer patients and survivors across the community.
“The goal was to come out and win every preseason game,” Zyph said. “We’re 10-0 before the league starts. But now, we’re starting over. We’re 0-0. I’m super proud of these guys for competing and sticking with it. I’m super excited for them. Cancer is something that affects everyone. The kids get to do what they love and support a greater cause.”
The Grizzles took two brief leads early in the first quarter off baskets from junior center Elijah Sprenger and junior forward Bryce Fairchild, but the Rockets responded by embarking on the first of their game’s many streaks, pouring in 10 points in less than two minutes for a 13-4 lead with 4:15 left in the quarter.
Helix senior forward D’Artagnan Carlson pulled the Grizzlies within two points with back-to-back 3-pointers for a 17-15 game with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter.
The Rockets widened the gap as senior forward Payton Thurmond scored six points early in the second quarter.
The Rockets took off on a eight-point run in the final two minutes of the half to take a 14-point lead at 41-27, but Sprenger hit a trey in the last seconds as the Rockets took a 41-30 lead into the locker room.
“We were playing down to their level in the first half,” said Thurmond, who finished with a game-high 20 points. “In the second half, we played our game. We came out with a better attitude. We played as a team.”
The Grizzlies got a combined five points in the third quarter from Fairchild and freshman forward Kuper Bracher, while the Rockets put 19 points on the scoreboard. The quarter ended with a 13-point Pilot Rock scoring spree — five of which came from Thurmond.
Pilot Rock’s Easton Powers, Jimmy Jones, and Tanner Corwin combined for 12 unanswered points to open the fourth quarter as the Grizzlies were held scoreless for nearly three minutes. Zyph sent in his bench to finish off the game.
“It was huge for our team to get our bench players some time,” Zyph said. “It’s a huge confidence booster going into the league.”
Rockets junior Tel Thacker finished with 13 points, while Corwin had 12, and Jones 11. Helix got a team-high 16 points from Sprenger and 14 from Carlson.
“I’m excited about starting the league,” Thurmond said. “We played hard today. We worked really hard. It feels good.”
Pilot Rock (10-0) opens conference action Friday at Enterprise. Helix (5-4) will host Mac-Hi’s JV squad Friday for another nonleague contest.