Gaston has second place locked up, but needs Riverdale to lose for a league title

There was only thing that the Gaston boys basketball team could do after losing to Riverdale last month — the Hounds had to win. They had to win and win, and maybe hope against hope that Riverdale somehow lost two games.

At this point, with Riverdale (13-6, 12-2) closing out the season against seventh-place Faith Bible and fourth-place Delphian, it does not look as though the Greyhounds (15-6, 12-3) will have a chance to claim the Northwest League championship. However, Gaston has done its part by mounting a six-game winning streak since the earlier loss to Riverdale.

Last week, Gaston beat Nestucca 58-32 and Delphian 48-34.

While the Hounds have struggled to put four quarters together offensively, Gaston’s defense has shined over the last several games.

“We’re still a little bit inconsistent offensively,” Gaston head coach Marc Roche said. “We’ll have a good quarter here and there that will carry us. But, the defense has been the driving force for us.

“We’ve done a great job of playing good team defense and playing help side defense to really protect the paint and force them to shoot tougher, contested shots from the perimeter.”

Last week the Hounds were led by strong performances from point guard Austin Morey and wing Levi Watkins.

“Austin Morey ... has been playing really well,” Roche said. “He’s had solid games in the last couple of games, playing great defense and really commanding the game as the floor leader. And against Delphian, Levi Watkins had a great game shooting. He made six three-pointers and especially carried us in the first quarter and helped get us going.”

Gaston has just one league game left this season, tomorrow against fourth-place Knappa (9-11,8-6). The Hounds already have second place wrapped up, and — barring an epic collapse by Riverdale — do not have much of a shot at the league championship. But, after losing 58-51 to Knappa on Jan. 8, Roche is eager for his team to showcase the improvements they have made during the season.

“It’s big as far as us putting it all together,” Roche said. “As far as standings, we have the two spot in our league pretty locked up. This is a team who has been a league rival for us. Knappa is a tough, competitive team. We lost at their place earlier in the year, so this is a little bit of redemption. I know that our guys really want this one.

“The importance of this game isn’t big in terms of standings, but it is big in terms of our overall personal gain and seeing the gain that we’ve experienced throughout the season. We’ll be really ready to come out and get after these guys. I know that a loss against Knappa a month ago really hurt. It’s one of those things where we’re much better now. The guys will really be ready. It’s Senior Night, it’s our last league game, we’ll be really up and ready to go.”

Tomorrow’s game against Knappa will also provide the Greyhounds a chance to prepare themselves for the District Tournament that starts next Thursday. In the first round, the league’s third-place finisher travels to the second-place team, with the winner advancing to face the regular-season champion for the right to be the league’s top seed in the Class 2A state playoffs.

“If we took care of business in that Thursday game, then we would get to play Riverdale for the one seed going into the playoffs,” Roche said. “We lost to Riverdale twice and we really want to get them. But, the winner of that game also guarantees a first round game in the state playoffs.

“So we certainly put a lot of significance into how we play in the District Tournament.”

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