UMATILLA - The Weston-McEwen TigerScots took complete control of the Columbia Basin Conference boys basketball race Tuesday with a 58-54 win over Umatilla.
The TigerScots (17-5, 11-2 CBC) outscored the Vikings 10-3 in the third quarter and held off a late charge by Umatilla, clinching at least a share of the CBC title.
Weston-McEwen can clinch the title outright and a return trip to the 2A state tournament with a win over Stanfield Friday.
"Tonight is a big win for the school, the kids and the community, but we can't forget that we must show up Friday night," Weston-McEwen head coach Scott Pumphrey said. "Stanfield is a very good team and coming on here at the end."
Umatilla (20-3, 10-3) went to Tony Villanueva early in the game and established his inside presence, but the TigerScots held their own with Zach Johnson answering down low for Weston-McEwen.
Sheard jumper, followed by a Dan Tucker bucket and a pair of free throws. Weston-McEwen led 37-30 with just over five minutes left in the third.
"Dan had a bad ankle and played his heart out," Pumphrey said.
Weston-McEwen slowed the tempo to a near stall and stiffened their defense and neither team scored for three minutes until Johnson's bucket gave the TigerScots a 39-30 lead with 2:25 left in the third.
"We tried to slow the game down and took a page out of Umatilla's book and the kids responded," Pumphrey said.
Umatilla finally answered with a Brian Littrell free throw, but trailed 41-33 heading into the final quarter of play.
"We just didn't get the ball inside and didn't execute in the third quarter," Umatilla head coach Tony Villanueva said. "I don't know what happened, but we played lethargic."
The Vikings utilized full-court pressure and forced several TigerScot turnovers and outscored Weston-McEwen 4-2 to start the fourth quarter, before Johnson scored five unanswered points.
Johnson scored seven of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.
"Zach would shoot and miss, but he followed his shot and got 10 to 12 points off offensive rebounds," coach Villanueva said. "We didn't do a good job of blocking him out."
The TigerScots led 48-37 with 5:40 left, but struggled with Umatilla's press and Andre Pharr had several steals that turned into easy buckets. Umatilla used a 12-5 run over the next three minutes with Villanueva scoring eight points and Chris Wyland hitting a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 53-50 with just two over two minutes left.
"Chris is a great player and he's the type of kid you'd wish you had on your team," Pumphrey said. "I can't say enough about him."
The two teams would exchange buckets and Eric Delph added a free throw before Villanueva again scored down low.
Umatilla trailed 56-54 with 34 seconds left and worked a play to Villanueva, but his shot missed and Delph ended up with the ball and went the length of the floor for an uncontested layup that gave Weston-McEwen the game.
"Mental toughness is something that we have preached all year and at the end we did some smart things to get the job done," Pumphrey said. "We made it close, but we have not won by much all year and that's our style."
Villanueva led all scorers with 24 points and Littrell added 15 points for the Vikings, but only five players scored for Umatilla and coach Villanueva felt his lack of depth hampered the Vikings down the stretch.
"This loss makes it a lot tougher for us with several games ahead of us," coach Villanueva said. "We have a lot of heart and we have to work hard, but this loss hurts."
King scored 13 points for the TigerScots and Delph added 10.
Sports reporter Joe McHaney can be reached at 1-800-522-0255 (ext. 1-236) or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Weston-Mc 11-2 17-5
**Umatilla 10-3 20-3
**Heppner 10-3 17-6
**Pilot Rock 6-7 12-9
**Stanfield 6-7 10-13
Culver 3-10 7-14
Wahtonka 3-10 5-16
Sherman Co. 3-10 8-13
*=Clinched tie for CBC title
**=Clinched CBC playoff berth