Senior Greg Shepard hits twice from the foul line late to pace 46-43 victory
EUGENE - Nothing comes easy at the 6A state tournament.
The Sunset boys basketball team found that out in its tournament opener against Central Catholic last Thursday at McArthur Court, but when push came to shove, the Apollos made the big plays they needed to make to beat the Rams 46-43.
Of those big plays, none were bigger than senior Greg Shepard's two foul shots with 17 seconds left that provided the final three-point margin in his team's quarterfinal victory.
'I was nervous - at Mac Court shooting with 17 seconds left - but I've hit a couple clutch free throws this year and I'm a senior on this team so I thought I better be calm for the rest of the team,' said Shepard, who finished with six points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
'The great thing about this team is that it's been through so many close games,' said Sunset coach Todd Sherwood, who guided the Apollos to their first tournament berth in four years. 'It started with South Medford (in non-league play) and went on from there into league. It helps so we don't get totally flustered.'
The Apollos needed all their composure down the stretch too. Sunset led 39-26 when Ryan Bennett scored off a Shepard assist at the end of the third quarter, but that lead dissipated quickly in the fourth quarter.
While Sunset went cold from the floor - the Apollos went 1-for-7 with four turnovers in the first 5 minutes, 20 seconds of the fourth quarter - Central hit six straight foul shots, got a baseline drive from Jordan Freelander and a three-pointer from Derek Bowen to cut the gap to 41-39 with 3:57 remaining.
Shepard hit a bank shot on the left side assisted by Garrett Sim with 2:40 left to play, and Michael Holton hit one free throw for a 44-39 lead with 1:53 remaining. But the Rams answered with a Demetrius Guice foul shot and a Nate Carr three-pointer that sliced the Sunset lead to 44-43 with 45 seconds remaining.
Central wouldn't score again, though, and Shepard's two free throws sealed the victory with 17 seconds to go.
We were 'a little shaky down the stretch, but we built a comfortable lead which helped,' said Sim, who led all scorers with 16 points and added six rebounds and two assists. 'We just got away from what we were doing in the first half, but down the stretch we made free throws and came through in the end.'
'They just put a lot of pressure on us (in the second half), trapping Garrett and getting the ball out of his hands so we had to step up and make some shots, but we got the win,' Shepard added.
Jake Teeny and Freelander led Central Catholic, the Mt. Hood Conference champions, with 11 points each, and Nate Carr added 11 rebounds for the Rams. Holton and Bennett had six points each for Sunset, while Phil Campbell had two blocks and three steals in the win.
The Rams also lost their next game and finished their season at 20-8.