>Buff boys split four games
A frustrating start turned into an unchallenged finish for the Madras High's boys basketball team in its play in last week's Central Oregon 3A Invitational.
After losing to the eventual champion in the first round and being beaten by Junction City by one point in a Friday morning game, Madras mauled Henley, 53-35, and Douglas, 76-52, in two Saturday games at Bend's new Summit High.
A 16-team event in which championship bracket play was all held at the Deschutes County Fairground and Expo Center, the tournament provided a potential state tourament preview to the many spectators.
Coincidentally Madras raced to a 27-10 second-quarter lead over eventual tournament champion Scappoose on Dec. 27, only to be caught from behind by the Indians.
While seeming in control of the first-round game against Scappoose, Madras discovered the speed of Oregon's 3A football Player of the Year, Eliot Vinzant, and quickness of Tyler Townsend, coupled with rebounding of their teammates was capable of rallying Scappoose to victory.
After holding Scappoose scoreless in the game's opening exchanges, Madras quit missing its own chances on its way to the large advantage. Vinzant's defense on Jacoby Ellsbury of Madras limited Ellsbury despite the Madras senior keying some breakaways or driving to baskets of his own.
Ellsbury was the top scorer for Madras with 13 points but the White Buffalos had troubles getting him the ball during some key sequences in the third quarter.
"One of the mains things (losing to Scappoose) did was show us we needed to keep up our intensity the whole game," said Coach Evan Brown of Madras.
Entering his second decade as the Buffalo leader, Brown said having a relatively young and inexperienced squad manifested itself in the form of some inconsistency in both the losses against Scappoose and Junction City.
Swarming after rebounds did help the Buffs scramble into an early advantage against Scappoose -- which was held to one shot on its first three possessions -- but Madras missed its first three shots.
Madras took a 5-0 lead behind a John Adams' scoring spurt. The run included a three-point basket and conversion of a fast break triggered by Ellsbury for Adams.
Spotting a potential weakness, Scappoose switched its defense just enough to challenge Adams while maintaining a sharp patrol of Ellsbury. Scappoose surrendered only one more basket to Adams as Joey McConnell's three-point field goals left him second in scoring for Madras with nine.
Dominique Easterling dumped home eight points in what proved a balanced Madras attack which Jeff Barnes and Tim Kirsch added four points each to.
Scappoose called a timeout after another in the series of Madras' first-half steals and layups left the Buffs leading 27-10 in the middle of the second quarter. With Vinzant navigating a lane to the basket for a Scappoose layup on that play, Scappoose's return to contention had begun.
Cutting the difference to 13 points by halftime, the Indians rallied still more in the third quarter.
Madras made as many mental and unforced mistakes as ones it was forced into, according to Brown.
Not executing rather than running low on endurance was the Buffs problem in both their tournament losses, said Brown.
The game against Junction City turned into another lost chance for the White Buffs.
Brown said being in the last minute but not being aware of the point difference and time left was one of the problems he would have the Buffs working intently on.
Knowing what to do is not a problem for Madras, compared to remembering to do it consistently, Brown explained.
Getting four and five players to the board will also be important as Madras heads into its league schedule, said Brown. He explained that The Dalles and Sherwood -- the first opponents of Madras in Tri-Valley League play -- both hold a height advantage which the Buffs will need to find a way to neutralize.
"We don't care who gets the rebounds. Whether it's Lucas (Conway) at 5-5 or Tim (Kirsch) with his 6-2 size doesn't matter, as long as we keep the other team from having extra chances to score," Brown said.
In its second win of the tournament, which closed its competition prior to Tri-Valley League tussles, Madras put everyone who appeared into the scoring column. Besides giving up 18 to Ellsbury and 16 to Easterling in an early afternoon battle, Douglas gave up nine to McConnell, seven to Conway, Kirsch, Jeff Barnes and Adams, plus two each to Pat Boyle and Jesse Davis, and one to Guy Reynolds.
Knowing the situation and time each time the ball is brought up the court is something the coaches have been "harping" on this season, said Brown. The players can count on hearing it more as they resume competition, Brown pointed out.
After tipping off Tri-Valley League action by hosting The Dalles Friday, the boys will be off to Sherwood for their Jan. 8 league game.