Boys basketball: Sherwood holds on to beat Ashland by one to earn the trip to the Class 5A state tourney
Since the start of the season, the Sherwood High School boys basketball team has had its sights set on one specific goal: getting to the state tournament.
Even after they got off to a 0-3 start in Northwest Oregon Conference play, the Bowmen remained focused on that goal.
With a key regular season-ending win over Parkrose and a come-from-behind first round state playoff victory over Woodburn, Sherwood got closer and closer to that goal.
Then, Friday night in front of a big crowd at Ashland High School, Sherwood, leading by one point in the second-round state playoff game, was less than a third of a second away from seeing that goal become a reality - or from seeing it crashing away.
With a Class 5A state tournament berth on the line and 0.3 left to play in the game, the Bowmen, clinging to 44-43 lead, watched Ashland junior Garrett Tygerson step to the free throw line to shoot a pair of foul shots.
Tygerson missed on both attempts, leaving Sherwood with the nerve-wracking one-point victory and a berth in the Class 5A state tournament.
'That was pretty crazy,' Sherwood senior Travis Lutes said following the team's practice on Monday. 'We're really happy about it.'
Sherwood, the No. 3 team out of the Northwest Oregon Conference, improved to 16-10 on the season with the nail-biting playoff win at Ashland and advanced to play at the Class 5A state tournament, which started Wednesday at McArthur Court in Eugene.
'It's real exciting,' Sherwood senior Ian Donovan said.
'It's as exciting as it gets,' Sherwood senior Connor Rumpf added.
The Bowmen were scheduled to meet Mountain View of Bend, the No. 2 team from the Intermountain Conference, in a state tournament quarterfinal game on Wednesday. Results of that game weren't available when the Times went to press.
If Sherwood won on Wednesday, it will play either No. 1-ranked North Eugene or No. 2-ranked Jefferson in a semifinal game Friday at 6:30 p.m.
If the Bowmen lost on Wednesday, they'll play either North Eugene or Jefferson today (Thursday) at 10:45 a.m. in a fourth-place semifinal contest.
'We're the only team in the tournament not ranked and we're the only team that won on the road in the sub round,' Sherwood coach Brian Burke said. 'This is a good role for us. It's a good opportunity.'
'It's very exciting for us, and it's going to be a lot of fun,' Lutes said.
But the Bowmen aren't satisfied with just getting to the state tournament.
'It's been our goal since the beginning of the season,' Donovan said of the state tourney. 'But we still want to go further.'
Donovan, Lutes and Rumpf were all part of the Sherwood team that played in the Class 3A state tournament two years ago.
'We weren't sure we'd make it back,' Lutes said.
The Bowmen probably had that feeling throughout Friday's state playoff game in Ashland.
'It was a crazy game,' Burke said. 'It was pretty amazing.'
Sherwood led that game 20-19 at halftime and the teams were tied at 28-28 going into the fourth quarter, where things got real interesting.
The Grizzlies opened a 35-31 lead on a pair of free throws by Tygerson coming with 4 minutes and 12 seconds left to play in the game.
But the Bowmen came back strong. They took the lead on a jumper by junior Colin Wester coming with 2:12 left to play in the game.
Behind free throws by Wester and Donovan, Sherwood pushed its lead to 42-38 with just 49.6 seconds remaining.
Ashland cut the lead to two on a basket by Tygerson, but the Bowmen came right back with a layup by Lutes, keeping the lead at four with 24 seconds left to play.
But the Grizzlies cut the margin to one, at 44-43, when Dillon Thigpen connected on a three-pointer with 11 seconds left.
Donovan was fouled with 7.7 seconds showing on the clock, but he missed both of his free throw attempts, keeping the score at 44-43. As time nearly expired, Tygerson was fouled going for a layup with 0.3 seconds left to play.
He stepped to the foul line with a chance to either send the game to overtime or to win it outright for the Grizzlies.
'I was thinking what a tough one this would be to lose,' Burke said.
'We were thinking 'miss those free throws,'' Donovan said. 'I just missed two free throws, so I really wanted him to miss.'
'We were praying for him to miss,' Rumpf said.
Tygerson hit the back rim on both of his free throw attempts.
'After the second miss, it was just hit the ball away,' Lutes said.
'Then it was party time,' Rumpf added with a smile.
Lutes led the way for Sherwood in the playoff win at Ashland with 18 points.
'Travis played an exceptional game,' Burke said. 'He also picked up a pair of key charges on defense.'
Donovan, who sank a pair of three-pointers in the second half, had 10 points in the win and Wester scored nine.
Matt Lipski, Ashland's 6-foot-9, 300-plus pound center, led all scorers with 19 points, but he had just two points in the decisive fourth quarter.
'We did a better job trapping on him in the second half,' Burke said.
Ashland, the Southern Sky Conference champion, finished its season with a record of 16-10.
The Class 5A state tournament title game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.