COOS BAY — Defending champion De La Salle North Catholic and tournament upstart Amity will tip it off in Saturday’s championship game in the OSAA / OnPoint Community Credit Union 3A boys basketball tournament at Marshfield High School.
The top-seeded Knights played a near-perfect second half of basketball to destroy Pleasant Hill 63-31 in the Friday’s first semifinal.
In the next game, Amity guard Michael Duncan hit two improbable three-pointers in the last 17 seconds — the last one at the buzzer with Dayton defenders hanging all over him — to drag the 10th-seeded Warriors into the championship game with a 38-37 victory.
The championship game will tip off at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Amity 38, Dayton 37: Amity was dead as a doornail with 4.1 seconds left against their ancient — the two schools are eight miles apart — Yamhill County rivals.
Dayton’s Tyler Spink had just missed the second of two free throws after a deliberate foul; Josh Wart grabbed the rebound and called time out.
The go-to guy for the Warriors is usually Tyler Parr, and he was a factor in the planning. The ball was to come inbounds to Duncan, and he was supposed to get it upcourt to Parr.
But the veteran Pirates were waiting for him at midcourt. Duncan dribbled into them and fought his way to the three-point line at a 45-degree angle on the right side of the key. He let go was the clock swept down to one second.
“I had one foot up, and I was leaning a little,” Duncan said, “but it felt good coming out of my hand. I thought maybe, then I just knew it was going in.”
It went in cleanly, just as the buzzer sounded. Duncan was right in front of a packed Amity rooting section when it went in. The delirious Amity fans didn’t have far to pour out and mob the school’s new hero.
Both teams had slight leads during the game. Dayton led much of the first half, but a six-point burst in the third quarter finally put the Warriors on top 22-21. They padded that with three more points from Josh Wart for a three-point lead with eight minutes to go.
But the Pirates stormed back on a Lukas Findley three-pointer and two free throws each from Braeden Nowlin and Dawson Ashley, then another from Findley, for a 36-32 lead with just 30 seconds left.
The Warriors worked the ball around, then Duncan lined up from an ungodly 40 feet and practically threw it at the basket with 17 seconds left. The ball rattled three times and fell, and suddenly the Warriors were one miracle away from a win.
“I just saw an opening and shot it,” Duncan said. “I practice those all the time. I didn’t think it was all that far.”
Duncan’s constant interview sessions were interrupted by just as constant congratulations from an unlikely source — the De La Salle North Catholic players gathered around him with chirps of joy and high fives.
De La Salle North Catholic 63, Pleasant Hill 31: As dominant as the top-seeded Knights have been this year, coach James Broadous II was hard pressed to answer the question:
How close was that to a perfect half of basketball?
Numerically, it looked like this: The Knights led just 27-21 at the halftime break, but in the second half they outscored the Lane County team 36-10. For the game, the Knights shot an excellent 57.8 percent from the floor; in the second half alone, they hit a dazzling 15 of 21 — 71.4 percent.
Billie star Logan Pruitt lit the Knights up for 16 points in the first half. In the second half he barely got a look and scored only three more.
This was all against a team that has given teams fits all season.
“It’s about as close to perfect as you can get,” Broadous said. “As coaches, we try to think of things to get better at, but I can’t think of much in that second half.
“We played defense, we executed the game plan, we did it all. This is a really smart group.”
The Billies (22-6) dictated the pace of the game in the first half, put the clamps around Knight guard George Sadi and were always within a couple of three-pointers of being dead even with the Knights.
But Broadous noticed something important: Pruitt was the only one scoring for Pleasant Hill.
“We knew they had shooters,” the coach said, “but we noticed that none of the shooters were hitting. So in the second half, we had the guards sag back a little and help out on Pruitt.”
Offensively, the Knights need a go-to player not named George Sadi. Sadi pounded Sutherlin for 27 points on Thursday night, but the Billies had him under wraps.
But they couldn’t contain him and Kadeem Nelson at the same time.
Nelson went for 25 points — 12 in the first half, 13 in the second. He hit 4 of 6 three-pointers. He led fast breaks and passed for four assists. The 6-3 senior was everywhere on defense.
“What a game he had,” Broadous said. “He’s a big-time player. He comes up big for us time after time after time. A moment is never too big for him.”
The second half opened with a 17-2 De La Salle run, and built from there. A last 14-4 burst got the score out to 61-27 — the high point for the Knights.