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Gaston outlasts Nestucca in OT

The Gaston boys basketball team will relish the opportunity to play in front of its home fans once again, returning home on Friday after playing seven consecutve road games.

The Greyhounds, losers of four straight games prior to a 56-44 victory over Nestucca last week, will host Neah-Kah-Nie at 7:30 p.m. on Friday for their first home game since beating East Linn Christian on Dec. 21.

“It has been a little taxing,” Gaston head coach Marc Roche said of the team’s long string of away games. “It’s been kind of a challenge, so I think our guys are really looking forward to playing at home again and enjoying some of that home-court advantage.”

Signs of weariness emerged earlier this month when the Hounds dropped three straight games against Westside Christian (47-35), Riverdale (49-39) and Horizon Christian (54-38). That dropped Gaston’s record to 6-5 overall and 3-1 in Northwest League play, but the Greyhounds responded with a win over Nestucca last Friday that halted the losing streak at four games.

In that game, Gaston held a five-point lead late in regulation but watched as Nestucca rallied to tie the score at 42-42. The Hounds had two free throws to win the game with one second left, but missed them both.

Gaston regrouped in the extra session, however, and used a 14-2 run to pull away, leaving a bemused Roche to laugh off his team’s late-game struggles.

“I think I aged a little bit in that game,” he quipped. “But luckily we turned it on in overtime. We’re capable of taking control of games like that, we just need to get more consistent. The main thing is offense — scoring the basketball. At times we’ve really struggled as a team to score.”

Austin Waibel led Gaston with 25 points and six rebounds against Nestucca, while Saheat Berisha contributed 10 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four assists. Ian Mann had nine points and Trevor Reynolds chipped in eight.

Gaston’s offense will receive a boost this week with the return of starting point guard Austin Morey, who missed the last two games while attending an out-of-state wedding.

“We’ve been missing him,” Roche said. “I think having Austin back will help our offense get on track.”

Boxers split with Bearcats, Bruins

After a quiet weekend against the eastern Washington schools, Pacific senior Daniel Zitani roared to life last week, leading the Boxers to a split with Willamette and George Fox in Northwest Conference men’s basketball action.

Zitani, the NWC’s leading scorer and rebounder, turned in a 25-point, nine-rebound performance last Tuesday in a 56-48 victory against Willamette. Zitani went 10-for-18 from the field and also made a pair of free throws late in the second half that helped the Boxers ice the game.

Four nights later against George Fox, Zitani was even better, scoring a career-high 30 points and grabbing 10 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season. That big scoring night wasn’t enough to lift Pacific to victory, however, as the Bruins rolled to an 80-68 victory.

The performances only solidified Zitani’s place as one of the top players in the league. He enters the week leading the NWC with 20.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. He also ranks third in blocked shots (18) and fourth in field goal percentage (.525).

Pacific will aim to stay in the top half of the NWC standings with two more games this week. The Boxers will play at Lewis & Clark on Friday before returning home on Saturday to host Pacific Lutheran.

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