PILOT ROCK - Weston-McEwen infiltrated The Rock on Friday and escaped with a 72-68 victory in a Columbia Basin Conference boys basketball game.
With the score tied at 65 with 56 seconds left, Cameron Watts sank a layin to grab a 67-65 lead over eighth-ranked Pilot Rock, and the TigerScots sank 5 of 8 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
"That just finished them," Watts said of Weston-McEwen's performance from the stripe. "Free throws win games."
On the contrary, Pilot Rock sank just 17 of 35 shots from the stripe, and made just 3 of 8 attempts during a critical stretch in the fourth quarter.
"The team that shot better from the line won the game," Pilot Rock coach Sam Byrnes said. "That was the difference."
Trailing 63-59 with 2:20 left, Pilot Rock's Mitch Byrnes hit a 3-pointer to bring the Rockets within one.
Watts answered on the other end with a pair of free throws to give the TigerScots a 65-62 lead, but Weston-McEwen handed Pilot Rock eight consecutive trips to the line in the next minute.
The Rockets made three free throws to tie it at 65, but let a potential lead pass them by.
The game was reminiscent of the teams' previous meeting in Athena on Jan. 7, when Watts sank a pair of free throws with two seconds left in Weston-McEwen's 61-59 victory.
The TigerScots enjoyed a similar result on Friday.
"It was like deja vu," Weston-McEwen coach Scott Pumphrey said. "We played good basketball and stepped up with confidence. ... We're game-tested, and we've been in this type of situation before."
This time, Pilot Rock had an opportunity to tie things up, though. Down 71-68, Byrnes took the ball up the floor and set his feet for a 3-point attempt.
But the shot missed, and Watts was fouled immediately after pulling down the rebound.
Watts made 1 of 2 attempts, and Phillip Perrine couldn't get a 3-pointer to fall in the closing seconds.
"We won as a team (Friday)," Pumphrey said. "We didn't try to play individual basketball. ... That feels good."
The victory pushed the TigerScots (5-2 CBC, 15-2) within a half-game of the Rockets (6-2, 12-6) in a top-heavy conference.
Both Pumphrey and Byrnes agreed that tradition fuels the cross-county rivalry.
"I think you have two schools (that) have played against each other for 40 years, and two communities (that) support those schools," Byrnes said. "There weren't many open seats in our gym (Friday), and the kids feed off of that."
Pilot Rock took an 18-15 lead into the second quarter, but Weston-McEwen outscored the Rockets 29-18 in the period to take a 44-36 lead into the break.
The Rockets' defense answered in the third, limiting the TigerScots to just 10 points in the period. Perrine's jumper with 2:18 left in the quarter gave Pilot Rock its first lead of the half at 53-52.
Scott Peterson answered with a layin with 28 seconds left to put Weston-McEwen up 54-53, and the TigerScots outscored the Rockets 18-15 in the final period.
Watts led all scorers with 19 points, and teammates Alec Sheard and Clell Hasenbank both scored 14 for Weston-McEwen. Byrnes led Pilot Rock with 18 points, and Perrine added 15.
Pilot Rock visits Culver at 5:30 p.m. today, and Weston-McEwen hosts Umatilla at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Notes: Weston-McEwen made 14 of 22 shots from the line. ... The Rockets' Nolan Mills scored 13 points off the bench. ... Pilot Rock's Michael Krosting and Bobby Parrish both fouled out in the fourth quarter. ... Weston-McEwen's Alec Sheard also fouled out in the final period.