Stayton — Two conference foes met Saturday night in a tournament championship showdown that was destined to be a great matchup between two talented, evenly matched teams. Woodburn had a pair of challenging matches with Gladstone and Valley Catholic to reach the tournament championship, with both games coming down to the wire. Host Stayton breezed through North Salem and Ontario to reach their own tournament championship.
Jeovanny Marroquin opened up this one with a trey for Woodburn, getting the Bulldogs ahead 3-0 to get started. Malachi Muhic and Gavin Berning tied it up at three apiece with a bucket and a free throw, and after Woodburn retook the lead 5-3, the Eagles went on another 3-0 run to take their first lead 6-5. The Bulldogs hit the gas pedal offensively, closing out the quarter on a 12-3 run to lead 16-8 after the first quarter.
After Jordan Blem drilled a trey to open the second, the teams battled back and forth, trading buckets and treys along the way. Stayton closed the gap down the stretch, outscoring the Bulldogs 20-12 in the second quarter to knot it up at 28 each entering the half. In the third, Stayton and Woodburn traded runs, as the Eagles opened a 9-0 run after Woodburn scored to open the quarter and took the lead 37-30. Woodburn would end the quarter on an 8-0 run though, ultimately seizing the lead 38-37 to end the third.
The back and forth action continued in the fourth, with Stayton and Woodburn trading the lead back and forth until the Eagles took a 48-45 lead with less than two minutes to play. Stayton would miss three 1-and-1 free throw attempts in a row, leading Woodburn to try three different trey attempts to tie the game, but they were all unsuccessful. Stayton would finally drill a pair of free throws with under 20 seconds left to make it a two possession game, and the Eagles would hang on 51-45 to win the SCTC Holiday Boys Tournament.
With only one non-conference game remaining and a tournament championship under their belts, Stayton’s Bryce Whieldon and Malachi Muhic discussed the victory, their game plan, and the Eagles strengths and weaknesses entering conference play.
Bryce Whieldon on the second half adjustments, “We were trying to keep their shooters out and keep them from driving, we knew that we had to step it up on the defensive end because they were getting through easily. We knew we had to lock it down on defense and we did.”
Malachi Muhic on the offensive keys to success, “We knew that they liked to press, so we just worked on moving the ball and trying to keep up with their tempo is what we talked about before the game.”
Bryce Whieldon on Stayton’s areas for improvement, “We just need to grow our confidence together. We’re growing really strong as a team and I know by conference we’ll be ready. We’re communicating way better now and we’re all getting better all the way around.”
Malachi Muhic on Stayton’s biggest strengths, “We’re a really deep team, we have eight or nine guys who can play, and none of them are really better than the others. We like to play with each other, and we really should focus on that part of it.”
Stayton (8-3) hosts Philomath on Friday, Woodburn (6-3) hosts 5A undefeated South Albany on Tuesday