Sunset boys slip into state
The No. 4 Apollos slip past South Eugene 67-65 and into the 6A tourney
CEDAR MILL - A lively packed gym.
A determined underdog pushing the home team to the limit.
Mix in an inadvertent blood-drawing elbow - and a resounding rebuttal.
Now that's playoff basketball.
Fueled by Phillip Campbell's 10 fourth-quarter points, the Sunset boys held on for a 67-65 win over South Eugene on Saturday in the Class 6A second round state playoff game at Sunset High School.
The victory sent the Metro champion Apollos (22-4), who had a first round bye, into the state tournament for the first time since 2004. Sunset opens play at the University of Oregon's McArthur Court in Eugene at 6:30 p.m. today (Thursday) against Mount Hood champ Central Catholic.
'Our team chemistry is amazing,' senior Tyler Parker said. 'We trust each other and have been there so many times, we were confident.'
The Apollos never trailed, but the Axemen, the Southwest Conference's No. 4 seed, never let them get comfortable either.
Campbell swished consecutive 3-pointers and added a finger-roll layin to give Sunset a 57-49 lead midway through the final quarter. South Eugene senior John Hayward-Mayhew had 10 of his game-high 31 points in the last 2 minutes, 22 seconds to keep things interesting until the final buzzer.
'We've been in this position before,' said Sunset junior Michael Holton, who had eight points. 'That gave us confidence in tough games. They knew this was their last shot and gave it all they had.'
Including Hayward-Mayhew's elbow to Campbell's brow late in the first half, sending the 6-foot-5 forward to the floor. Campbell lay there woozy as blood formed on his forehead and the Sunset faithful let Hayward-Mayhew hear their displeasure.
'It was pretty solid,' Campbell said. 'I didn't know what was going on. I was just trying to not get stepped on.'
Campbell - who had no hard feelings afterward and said 'getting elbowed is part of the game' - stayed in the locker room after halftime as a fired-up Hayward-Mayhew scored six points to tie the game at 40-40. Campbell emerged - a large bandage above his right eye - with Sunset ahead 46-44 late in the third quarter, subbed in early in the fourth quarter and immediately went to work.
He drained two free throws then back-to-back 3-pointers for a 54-47 lead with 4:48 left.
'He came in and the crowd got more fired up,' Parker said. 'He carried us there for a stretch. That really picked us up.'
Sunset senior Garrett Sim hit two foul shots for a 60-50 lead with 3:22 left, but Hayward-Mayhew and the Axemen weren't done. The 6-foot-7 post scored inside on five straight possessions, the finale drawing South Eugene within 65-62 with 10 seconds left.
Parker made two foul shots, but Axemen Sam Jacobs was fouled on a 3-point shot and hit his first two free throws with two seconds left. South Eugene's Alex Coleman grabbed the rebound of the intentional miss and was fouled, hitting the first foul shot to make it 67-65. Coleman purposely clanked the second attempt, sending the ball off the side of the rim and out of bounds at the buzzer as Sunset advanced with its fifth win by five points or less in the last 10 games.
'It was pretty intense,' Parker said. 'It's fun, but we need to pull away a little bit.'
The Apollos couldn't against the Axemen (13-15) despite Sim, the Metro player of the year, scoring 12 of his team-high 18 points on four first-half 3-pointers.
Sunset took a 17-9 lead after Greg Shepard drained a 3-pointer and Ryan Bennett's underhand layin with 2:45 left in the first quarter. The Apollos held their largest first-half lead at 23-14 early in the second after Holton's bucket.
South Eugene closed the gap to three twice and trailed 35-31 after Hayward-Mayhew scored on the play that floored Campbell. Sim collected a loose ball and buried a 3-pointer but Hayward-Mayhew was fouled on a putback at the buzzer and hit the free throw amid a chorus of boos to complete the three-point play.
Hayward-Mayhew continued to feed off that energy after halftime, scoring consecutive buckets for a 40-40 tie. He had 18 points in the second half, including 12 in the fourth quarter on 6-of-6 shooting.
The Apollos shot just 50 percent (13-of-26) at the line in the second half, but got a much-needed spark from Campbell and held on to play at Mac Court.
'We'd like to win some games,' Campbell said humbly. 'We're all excited about going down and playing there.'