Over too quickly Crater ends Madras' memorable season
The quick start was an illusion. And a furious finish a sign of what might have been.
Between those five minutes, Madras' playoff hopes in the 5A boys' basketball tournament ended. The White Buffalos fell 92-87 to visiting Crater in state's opening round on Tuesday, Feb. 27. Madras finished its inaugural 5A season with a 16-9 mark.
Crater went on to play at Corvallis, the No. 2-ranked 5A team. The Comets lost 69-55. Crater trailed by 11 (50-39) entering the fourth quarter but rallied to a 53-49 deficit. The host Spartans then made 10 free throws in the final minute to secure the trip to the 5A final eight in Eugene.
Before that loss, Crater imitated Madras' frantic system in the playoff opener. The Comets also subbed five at a time and used a full-court press along with racing to the basket at every opportunity.
That fast pace quickly wiped out an early 9-2 Buff lead. It also gave Madras too large a deficit, 83-69 with 150 seconds left, to come back.
"That press surprised us and we made too many turnovers," said Orrin Wallace, one of six Madras seniors. "We didn't get the ball up the court."
The Buffs did early, hitting a trio of 3-pointers in the opening four possessions. Jansen Harrington drained two from the right corner and Derrick Metcalf another as the seniors gave Madras just the start they wanted.
"I made sure I didn't take many shots in warmups when I hit a few," Harrington said. "In the last game (at Bend), I was hitting shots in warmups, but not in the game. Once the state game started, I had a couple of wide open shots. They felt great."
Crater responded though. The Comets started attacking the basket and forcing turnovers.
"This is a veteran team (of eight seniors)," Crater coach Troy McNichols said. "They know a home team can get off to a quick start. They also know Madras has shooters; man do they have shooters."
So the Comets tried to stop the Buffs at half court. After the Comets made a basket, pressure came.
"They were using one of the presses we use," Harrington said. "We should have been able to handle it."
Subbing five at a time was a back to the future scenario for McNichols and his players.
"We used that style in our first four games," McNichols said. The Comets were 2-2, averaging 65.5 points a game. "Playing that style early this season helped us tonight."
Call it an early rehearsal for the playoff opener. As Madras prepared for Crater, the Buff coaches saw "a big and athletic team," Buff coach Evan Brown said. "That's the kind of team which gives us trouble. We've beaten bigger teams and beaten athletic teams closer to our size. When they attacked the basket, they showed how athletic they were."
Meanwhile, Madras wasn't attacking the basket. They had nearly the same number of turnovers in the first half (13 compared to 14 by Crater).
"We've seen presses before, but we've been effective at beating it," the Madras coach said. "So teams have backed off. Tonight, we didn't attack the press like we usually do."
It was a factor in Crater's 23-5 surge to close out the first quarter. The Comets went on to a 47-38 halftime lead, hitting 64 percent in the first half (21 of 33). Seven Crater players scored a field goal.
"The players on this team are fairly equal," McNichols said. "Since we played on Friday, we had just a couple of days to prepare. So having a balanced team helped us."
Madras stayed within range by hitting nine treys, including five by Harrington and three by Albert Adams, his last with 42 seconds left in the half to slice Crater's lead to 45-38.
Crater kept the pressure on with a 26-21 advantage in the third quarter.
"We knew they'd be pressuring us, that's their style," McNichols said. "What we did well was not letting one or two turnovers become three and four. That's what their style tries to do."
Crater finished with 30 turnovers which the hosts converted into 37 points. The Buffs had 25 which led to 27 Crater points. In Madras' last win (at The Dalles, 90-79), the Buffs had a 46-14 advantage to keep building a lead.
Crater's ballhandling left Madras trailing 73-59 going into the fourth quarter. The Buffs had one big surge left with a 10-4 run in the quarter's opening minutes.
A trey by Harrington opened the scoring. Senior Carson Ahern and then Metcalf followed with steals and layups. After a Crater timeout, Darrell Ceciliani drained a trey.
"We had the effort," the Madras coach said. "At halftime our big message on the board was `heart and desire.' That's what the kids gave us."
The surge moved the Buffs to 77-69 with five minutes left, forcing a Crater timeout. The Comets committed another turnover but quickly regained possession.
Three Crater layups followed, helped by a pair of Madras turnovers.
"That was big," Brown said. "We were getting close and then gave them the ball. Suddenly it was a 14-point game again (83-69 with three minutes left)."
Madras was forced to foul, trying to trade misses for treys. Crater didn't cooperate, making 6 of 8 free throws.
Harrington drained three treys in the final seconds to give him career highs of 31 points and nine treys.
Metcalf added 16 and Ahern 15. Wallace gathered in six rebounds and blocked two shots. Junior Albert Adams had 11 points and a game-high six assists.
Nine Crater players scored, four in double figures led by 6-foot-5 post James Oshel with 22 and 6-1 guard Jared Moser with 19.
Notes: The loss ended the Buff careers of A.J. Adams and Mark Wunsch as well. ... Harrington's nine treys tied the mark first set by Ben Christenson in 1994. ... As the Madras players were introduced they ran through a tunnel formed by fellow students. "That's the first time they'd done that. It was fun," Harrington said. It was a spur-of-the-game decision by students. Madras athletic director Margaret Sturza estimated Tuesday's crowd at 1,000... The Crater's coach's first words to his team were "good job, now you get to play the No. 2 team in the state (Corvallis)."