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Boys basketball: Scappoose flattens Molalla, still focused on 'next play'

Chase Johnson leads with a quiet 22 points as Scappoose blows out Molalla 64-32 for their fourth straight victory


Photo Credit: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Tribe senior Jacob Wendelschafer searches for options on offense during the first half of Scappoose's dominant win over Molalla on Tuesday night.Before the season began, Tribe boys basketball coach Rahim Tufts already had an endgame in mind for how he wanted the year to go. In seasons past, goals included things like repeating as league champions, or making it to the post season.

But this year, Tufts decided to turn the focus a little closer to home — and in fact, to the hardwood at the feet of each player. Tufts went with a next-play, next-possession attitude, and after 11 games, it's beginning to pay massive dividends.

Scappoose beat up on Molalla on Tuesday evening, doubling up the visiting Tribe in a 64-32 blowout. The win improves Scappoose to 10-1 on the season as the first time in Class 4A to reach double-digit victories. It's the fourth win in a row for the Indians, who took the first first six contests before falling to Marshfield on Dec. 22.

It was, perhaps, fitting that the seasons first loss should come before one of the more crucial stretches of the year. The Sisters tournament in central Oregon has been a turning point for the last several seasons: in 2012, Scappoose entered the competition with a 1-5 record, and went on to win 10 of their final 13 regular-season games. Last season, the Indians were 2-4 before the Sisters tournament, but won seven of the next ten games afterward.

The big difference? Bonding time. Both senior point guard Jacob Wendelschafer and Tufts alluded to the team's closeness, noting a deeper cohesion after the group returned from Sisters.

Photo Credit: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Chase Johnson stretches for a floater over Molalla's Reed Aylett in the second half. Johnson led all scorers with 22 points.“I feel like we bonded really well down there,” Wendelschafer said. “We're just having a lot of fun playing right now. I like how we're playing right now, it's just getting ready for league.”

Tufts, now in his fourth season, said the team's major improvement really had nothing to do with execution or effort, and it showed in their hot 18-2 start against Molalla.

“We came out really determined, and I think we really grew together over there as a cohesive unit — and not from the standpoint of playing basketball,” Tufts said. “Guys hanging out, we did a gift exchange, we spent a lot of time together. All the kids slept in the same big room of the house. There was room to sleep in other places, but they want to be together and they enjoy each other and celebrate each others successes.”

The squad was able to shake off the loss to Marshfield and waltz their way to the title game at the Sisters tournament, topping Seaside in the final of the three-day event. And as soon as the game was done, they were back to their usual routine: next play, next possession — not even next contest.

Wendelschafer said that, beyond the Indians' tilt with Yamhill-Carlton on Friday, he honestly didn't know who Scappoose had next on the schedule. And it's not a matter of not being aware, the mindset is by design.

“Before games, at halftime, we don't talk about the next half or the first half,” Wendelschafer said. “We talk about the first possession and what we're going to do either on defense or offense and take it one possession at a time. That's how we win games.”

Tufts echoed Wendelschafer's thoughts, throwing away the traditional halftime speech of “let's play two halves” in favor of talking about the first possession, and building from there.

Against Molalla, the mindset was especially evident on defense. At one point, senior guard Cody Fazio leapt forward and knocked the ball — he thought — off a Molalla player and out of bounds, but possession was given to the opposition. Mere seconds afterward, Fazio dove for a loose ball and was again denied. He stood up and began to protest to the nearest referee, but glanced at Tufts near the Scappoose bench.

“Just go back and do it again,” Tufts called across the court.

And a few minutes later, the team went into the locker room hooting and hollering, celebrating a steal and buzzer-beating three pointer from Fazio, a shot which gave Scappoose a 42-13 halftime edge.

“It's gonna be hard to hold a team to 13 points in a half,” Tufts said. “We played really, really well, and they missed some shots and turned it over. Our number one focus is defense. Defend, rebound, then we're gonna go and run, and guys have bought into that. We had an awesome practice yesterday, and that carried over into tonight.”

Both Indian tribes played the third quarter mostly even, but when the teams had played two minutes into the fourth and the crushing 30-point lead still hadn't begun to melt, Scappoose emptied their bench.

Once the game was over, you'd be hard-pressed to find an athlete who knew how many points he had scored. The defense and energy somehow managed to quiet the 22-point night of senior Chase Johnson, who was unstoppable on the glass and polished on offense, memorably shaking a defender and stepping back for a sparkling fadeaway.

Scappoose also got nine points — all from beyond the arc — from Brennen McNabb, and six each from Fazio and Wendelschafer. Senior Jake Ford had five points, and the Indians got four points from Robbie Backus, who had a special word for the team after their post game huddle.

It came from final comments from Tufts, and it fit the moment better than anything he could have said himself.

“Robbie Backus, after the game, after we talked, we said, 'The players got anything?'” Tufts remembered. “And he said, 'Hey, let's just carry it over to tomorrow and build on it, not worry about Friday. Worry about tomorrow.'”

SUMMARY

No. 4 Scappoose 64, Molalla 32

MOLA 7 6 11 8 — 32

SCAP 22 20 14 8 — 64

Scoring:

Scappoose: Wendelschafer 6, Backus 4, Fazio 6, Lohman 2, Nelson 3, McNabb 9, Ford 5, Reardon 2, R. Johnson 1, Marcantonio 4, C. Johnson 22

Molalla: Potter 3, Aylett 9, Dunton 4, Gengler 5, Salley 7, Wolfe 4

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