Sunset finishes third at state, its best effort at the tournament since all the way back in 1987
EUGENE - There was, frankly, no better way for the Sunset Apollos to finish their run at the Class 6A boys state basketball tournament.
The Metro League-champion Apollos (24-5) faced down their third-straight top-notch opponent - in this case Southern Conference runner-up North Medford (21-9) - rallied from a 13-point deficit and came back to beat the Black Tornado 80-73 and claim third place.
'This is the way I wanted to go out,' said senior guard Garrett Sim, the tournament's leading scorer and a unanimous first-team all-tournament selection. 'Not the game we wanted to finish on, but we took advantage of the opportunity we had so it was fun. This means a lot for us to bring home third place.'
Sunset, which was making its first tournament appearance since 2004, basked in its third-place finish, the team's best since the Apollos won the state tournament back in 1987.
'It was great. It was an awesome season,' said senior guard Tyler Parker. 'We've come so far as a team. We've got great team chemistry. We just believe in each other.'
'I think we just had really good team chemistry,' explained fellow senior Phil Campbell, who had 17 points and a game-high 12 rebounds against North Medford. 'Everybody just worked really well together and we're all great friends.'
Like Oregon City had the night before, North Medford (which lost its semifinal game 71-59 to Grant) came out firing on all cylinders against the Apollos. Junior guard Jordan Ellis, in particular, was as hot as could be for the Black Tornado, hitting a jumpshot, two three-pointers and a layup in the final 2 minutes, 46 seconds of the first quarter to help take his team from an 8-5 deficit to a 21-11 advantage at the end of the period.
The Tornado, led by Ellis' 27 points, stretched their lead to 26-13 on another Ellis 'three' just over a minute into the second quarter, but Sunset was not nearly ready to be done with its tournament experience.
Still down 43-34 at the start of the third quarter, the Apollos rallied back within 53-49 thanks to a 19-6 run spearheaded by Campbell's five points and four more from Bennett.
Sunset still trailed by four at the start of the final period, but quickly rectified that, tying the score at 62-62 when Sim took a Shepard pass, roared down the left baseline and dunked one-handed midway through the period.
The Apollos didn't stop there, either. Over the next 4:04, Sunset ripped off a 15-8 scoring edge - getting five points each in that span from Sim and Campbell - took a 77-70 lead with just 14 seconds left and tightened their grip on third place.
'We came in, obviously, wanting the state championship but we still left with something that's very good,' junior guard Michael Holton said. 'I'm very happy with third.'
'That's pretty much what it comes down to, who wants it more and I think we wanted it so we went and we got it,' Campbell said. 'It feels pretty good.'
And it felt good to prove to the rest of the state that, despite Sim's brilliance, the Apollos were far more than just one player.
'We're not a one-man team. We're not just one-sided,' Parker said. 'We're balanced and guys believe in each other so everyone passes it around until we get the best shot. When defenses take (Sim) out of the game, he just dishes to us and we finish. We're a team. We get it done.'
'We've got a lot of weapons; a lot of people don't see that but we showed 'em,' Holton said. 'We learned how to play with each other and things just flowed.'
'We've had other guys stepping up all year,' Sim added. 'Different guys show up. We did a good job, all the guys off the bench and all the starters stepping up.'
Sim finished with 34 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals. Shepard had 10 points and four assists, and Bennett had six points, five rebounds and three assists.
In addition to Ellis' 27, Tim Budavari-Jasper had 17 points and four rebounds, and Danny Berger had 15 points.