STANFIELD — Tiger guard Erik Galarza took one dribble and went glass from three-point range on the second half’s first possession against second-ranked Heppner Saturday night.
With the left elbow make Galarza issued the Mustangs a second half perimeter shooting challenge, a contest fourth-ranked Stanfield won handily on its way to a 51-46 come-from-behind victory at Stanfield High School.
Stanfield (11-2, 3-0 CBC) teammates Hunter Braithewaite and Tony Flores followed Galarza’s lead, draining threes on the Tigers next two possessions, and less than two minutes into the half the Mustang (10-3, 1-2 CBC) nine-point halftime edge was down to three points.
“If you come out of halftime banking in a three, everybody’s getting hyped up,” Braithewaite said. “Especially when you’re down.”
Stanfield connected from deep twice more in the third quarter to whittle the Heppner lead down to one point at the end of the period.
The fourth quarter belonged to the Tigers. Two Elvis Lockwood free throws gave the Tigers a 43-42 lead — their first since 2-0 — and Stanfield never trailed again. The Mustangs managed just four fourth period points.
“You could see that they looked a little tired at the end,” Stanfield coach Daniel Sharp said. “Advantage us.”
There was a reason for that. The Mustangs were playing their second game in 24 hours versus a top five Class 2A squad. Heppner lost 59-48 No. 1 Irrigon Friday night.
“I think we ran out of gas. We put so much into (Friday) night,” Heppner coach Jeremy Rosenbalm said.
Heppner built a 29-19 lead on burly forward Patrick Collins fourth made basket of the game in the closing moments of the first half. But much to Rosenbalm’s chagrin, the Mustangs went away from the 6-foot-4 tank in the second — he had just one field goal after intermission — instead buying into the Tigers three-point shooting frenzy.
“That’s not my No. 1 option just to fire away from three,” he said. “Either we need to penetrate and kick so the defense is on the move or we need to pound it inside and kick so the defense is moving. For us to stand and spot up from three without any defensive movement isn’t our strong point.”
Heppner was 3-of-10 in second half tries while Stanfield converted 5-of-12 second half looks from deep.
“If you can shoot it and it’s falling, keep shooting it,” said Braithewaite, who sank 2-of-3 second half tries.”If it’s not working we can always try something else, but it was working.”
The Tigers were without sophomore guard Dylan Grogan, who was held out by OSAA rules after being ejected in the third quarter of Stanfield’s win over Pilot Rock Friday. The loss provided added urgency for the Tigers in Saturday’s CBC showdown.
“We came into this game knowing that with Dylan out that we were going to have to rely some other guys,” said Braithewaite, who scored 14 points. “It’s tough to win without him, but we got through it and everyone did their jobs.”
“I’m thrilled,” Sharp said. “I think it says a lot about these guys. I told them this is something — the adversity that we overcame it pays us dividends later on in the season.”
Flores, a sophomore guard, was especially electric. He finished with a team-high 15 points that included two of the team’s second half three pointers. Flores was not new to the scene in the second half. A personal seven-point scoring surge in the second quarter cut Heppner’s lead to four points before the Mustangs powered it back to double-digits.
“We bring him off the bench and he’s the best secret weapon that we have, and now he’s no longer a secret,” Sharp said.
Heppner’s Logan Grieb sank a triple to tie the game at 45-45 with 5:11 remaining in regulation, but Heppner would scored just one point during the game’s remainder.
Grieb led the Mustangs with 13 points. Collins added 10 and 11 rebounds.
The Mustangs entered the weekend as Class 2A’s top team and leave it behind the eight ball in CBC play. With losses to Stanfield and Irrigon, Heppner now trails each team by two games with seven remaining. Only two teams from the CBC are eligible for OSAA state playoff action.
“My kids gave it everything that got,” Rosenbalm said. “They were in two basketball games with two great teams this weekend.
“This weekend isn’t going to make or break it for us. We still have an opportunity to get where we want to, which is out of the district tournament and to Pendleton. If we allow it to break our season then it can, but if we continue to come back and work and get better maybe this will help us in the long run.”
Stanfield travels to Umatilla on Tuesday for a non-league game, while Heppner won’t play again until they host Weston-McEwen on Friday.
STANFIELD 51, HEPPNER 46
HEP (10-3) 14 18 10 4 — 51
STAN (11-2) 7 16 18 10 — 46
HEPPNER — W. Putman 9, L. Grieb 13, J. Corbin 7, C. Hedman 0, J. Petzoldt 0, P. Collins 10, K. Murray 2, R. Cutsforth 2, C. Kindle 3.
STANFIELD — R. Bailey 4, Carillo 0, Gallarza 7, Lockwood 4, Tony Flores 15, H. Braithwaite 14, Monkus 0, Montes 1, Davchevski 6.
3-point field goals — HEP 5, STAN 6. Free throws — HEP 11-17, STAN 7-15. Fouls — HEP 19, STAN 16. Fouled out — R. Cutsforth (HEP).