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Gaston clips Riverdale for league's top playoff seed


Greyhounds will get a home game in the first round on Friday

Winning a district title was certainly at the top of his team’s to-do list last week, but equally important for Marc Roche and his Gaston boys basketball team was earning a favorable draw in the upcoming Class 2A state playoffs.

Consider the Greyhounds 2-for-2 on that list.

Gaston muscled its way past third-place Vernonia, 57-47, in the first round of the Northwest League playoffs last Thursday, then on Saturday the Hounds rallied from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat rival and regular-season league champion Riverdale, 47-44, and snatch away home court advantage for the state playoffs.

“It was a good week. They weren’t pretty games, but we found a way to win them both,” Roche said. “We were already in the playoffs, but getting wins determined who we play and where we play. We got a really good draw, I think.”

Gaston has endured long trips for first-round state playoff games in each of the past two seasons — traveling 500 miles round-trip to Stanfield in 2011, then logging 450 miles on a trip to Days Creek in 2012 — so the team is excited to play in front of its home fans this year.

The Greyhounds (18-6) will host Oakridge (18-7) on Friday at 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to next week’s Class 2A state tournament at the Pendleton Convention Center.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Roche said. “We’ve got all week to prepare. We don’t know much about (Oakridge), but we know they’re going to be ready to go.”

Gaston should also be ready to go after Saturday’s thrilling come-from-behind victory over Riverdale in the finals of the Northwest League playoffs.

After losing twice to the Mavericks during the regular season, Gaston made up for it with a gritty win on Saturday.

Riverdale (15-7) led by nine points with six minutes remaining, but the Greyhounds surged ahead on back-to-back three-pointers from Levi Watkins and Austin Morey, followed by an offensive rebound and putback by Austin Waibel.

“That really brought us back to life. That was huge,” Roche said. “That little stretch got us back in the game.”

Once back in the lead, Gaston turned up its defensive intensity and weathered a flurry of potentially game-tying three-point attempts from Riverdale in the final seconds.

“It was a really exciting game,” Roche said. “We made some big plays. We did a great job in the last few minutes of tightening up on defense and contesting perimeter shots.

“This Riverdale team is tough to guard because they have a lot of shooters. The defense helped get us going and also kept (Riverdale) from getting too many open looks at the end.”

Morey finished with 11 points and eight assists, and Watkins added 10 points. Sam Wismer led Gaston with 15 points and seven rebounds.

Waibel’s biggest contribution came defensively, where he shut down 6-foot-2 guard Joe Spector in the second half. Spector had a game-high 18 points in the first half, but Waibel held the Riverdale senior scoreless after halftime, helping the Greyhounds claw back on top.