>Lewis calmly connects
Both teams' rooters ranked as raucous as Saturday's Columbia Basin Conference boys basketball game between Pilot Rock and Culver came to a close. But both sides had good reason to leave the gym at Culver quivering.
Culver High sophomore Nate Lewis seemed one of the only participants or witnesses unflustered by the noise and controversy of whether he was fouled and whether any time should be left on the clock.
Lewis converted both of the two free throws he was awarded for being judged to have been hit while shooting after a Culver inbound with 1.1 second showing on the clock.
The shots the 6-2 Lewis calmly sank with 0:00 showing gave the Bulldogs a 62-61 win.
Culver is 1-1 in the Columbia Basin Conference. Coming off a 72-71 overtime loss Friday at Weston-McEwen Pilot Rock fell to 0-2 in the league. Culver crumbled at Stanfield, 62-42, in its initial game of league competition Friday.
While Lewis finished with a team-high 17 points Saturday, he had plenty of support. In addition to 16 from Chris Dix, who ran the court to convert a number of outlet passes from Jeff Cloud and Dustin Herman, in addition to Lewis, the Bulldogs received 14 points from Cloud, 11 from Herman, and four from Brennan Whitaker. Those five were rested in spurts as Jordan Sheets was the only other Bulldog to see action Saturday.
"We told him he didn't have time to go back down and then shoot. We were hoping he'd have a good enough look to make it or get fouled and they called the foul," Coach Mark Sheets noted of Culver looking to Lewis all the way on the play set up with 1.1 seconds left.
That final play capped a wild series of plays. Pilot Rock missed two one-and-one free throw chances that could have left Culver too far behind for last-second heroics to help.
Coincidentally, the final minute's action first accelerated when Lewis grabbed a Pilot Rock bobble with 47 seconds left after Culver senior Jeff Cloud cut a three-point Rocket lead to 61-60 with a driving lay up with 1:20 left.
A ball handling mistake forced Culver into a foul with 37 seconds left. Pilot Rock could have expanded its lead but missed a one-and-one attempt which let Culver have another shot, which it again missed, with only seven seconds left.
The ball bounced to Pilot Rock but Culver senior Chris Dix saw the need to foul and did so with only 5.6 seconds on the clock. Pilot Rock obliged the Culver needs of a missed free throw again and provided the late chance converted by Lewis.
Pilot Rock had only taken the lead in the fourth quarter as it repeatedly rallied after Culver courted control of the contest in the first, second and third quarters.
A lay up increasing Culver's early lead to 15-6 prompted Pilot Rock's first time out; which was followed by a rally that cut the lead to 17-12 by the end of the first quarter.
The game's second eight minutes proved as rocky. Pilot Rock tied the score at 22 before Culver created a 28-22 lead prompting another Pilot Rock time out. While pulling back within a basket again, the Rockets fell into a 33-28 deficit when Cloud sank a three-point basket for Culver.
A technical foul for "delay of game" when touching the shot Cloud made instead of letting it for Pilot Rock to pick up cost Culver two shots for Pilot Rock.
The one shot Pilot Rock made nearly cost Culver its win.
Rebounding from a loss at Stanfield the night before was big for coach Mark Sheets and Culver, Sheets said.
"We'd gone from five behind to six ahead, but we just ran out of gas in that game," said Sheets.
Stanfield won the Jan. 4 game 62-42. The 11 points by Dix and 10 points by Whitaker for Culver at Stanfield were more than offset as the home team took a 10-2 lead by the end of the first quarter before having to survive the Bulldogs charge into their temporary lead.
Stanfield's 19-5 final-quarter blitz decided that game.