In what was an absolutely amazing performance, the Nestucca High Bobcats boys basketball team played it's best game of the season in a 61-39 win over the Gaston Greyhounds June 9 at Gaston High School.
The Bobcats improved their Northwest League record to 3-1 and 5-3 overall. Nestucca is hoping to win it's final two games to keep alive its chance to qualify for the Class 2A Culminating Week state playoffs June 21-26.
In its second game of back-to-back contest's on June 10, Nestucca lost 52-30 to the Willamina Bulldogs (4-1 league, 5-2) in a nonleague road contest Thursday. The Bobcats faced the Knappa Loggers (3-0 NWL, 6-2) Monday (results unavailable because of Headlight Herald press deadline) and have two more contests remaining.
Nestucca, guided by second-year coach Justin Hartford, concludes its short 11-game spring season with a 6 p.m. road game Wednesday versus the Neah-Kah-Nie Pirates (0-3 NWL, 1-4), followed by its season finale June 18 in a nonleague matchup on the road against the Sheridan Spartans (5-1). For seniors Ivan Palos, Tyler Hagerty and Ozuna, it will be the final game of their Nestucca High School career.
"After leading 21-20 at halftime, we just ran out of gas against Willamina," said Hartford. "It's tough with consecutive games and we played really tough at Gaston the day before and they're a decent team. They (Gaston) played a full court press for most of the game. Our energy level just wasn't as high as I expected (versus Willamina). The guys played good, but our shot just weren't falling. You could tell fatigue was starting to affect us in the third quarter."
Nestucca junior Skyler Wallace led Nestucca in scoring with 12 points against Willamina, the first place team of the Class 3A Coastal Range League. Last Wednesday versus Gaston, Wallace was again the leading scorer with 17 points and his Bobcats teammates had an outstanding overall performance as well in a blowout win over the same team that they beat at home 48-44 on May 26.
"It was by far the best game this year and they finally put a full game together for us while moving the ball well on offense and just playing great team basketball," said Hartford. "On defense, they were moving as one group, they chased every loose ball and they were really playing very aggressively. We have everyone healthy now, we played with a high energy level and they all just played a great game. Skyler stepped up and played a big role offensively and defensively and as our floor leader, he really gets the job done well. He rebounds well, he shoots good and he's just the full package for a basketball player."
In a seesaw first quarter that included two lead changes and two ties, Nestucca sophomore guard Cody Hagerty (season-high 11 points), sank a jumper to help the Bobcats tie the game 15-15 at the end of the first quarter.
Gaston scored the first four points of the second to take its largest lead of the game at 19-15. From that point on though it was all Bobcats as they simply took control of the contest and had the momentum going their way for the remainder of the game.
A 14-0 Bobcats run, capped by Hagerty's three-pointer from the top of the arc, included baskets by senior Juan Ozuna (15 pts.) and Wallace helped that put Nestucca up 29-19, forcing a Gaston timeout with 2:20 left in the quarter.
Following the timeout Gaston narrowed the margin to 29-21. Wallace then sank a pair of free throws and Osuna hit an eight-foot baseline jumper to help Nestucca take a 33-21 halftime advantage.
The two teams traded baskets for most of the third, with Nestucca in front 43-33 after three quarters. The Bobcats utilized an aggressive two-three zone defense throughout the game and it payed off in the fourth. The Bobcats created turnovers and scored a number of fast break baskets, including a layup by junior Jaysson Swirtz (eight pts.) that helped extend the margin to 49-36 lead midway through the fourth.
Back-to-back three-point field goals by Wallace and Ozuna made it 55-36, forcing a Gaston timeout with 3:07 left in the game. Senior wing Tyler Hagerty (four pts.) later sank an outside jumper, capping a 14-0 Bobcats run to make it 61-36 with less than one minute remaining in the game.