The Pioneers finish the week tied for first place with Milwaukie — both at 4-0 in league

by: THE POST: PARKER LEE - Sandys Justin Adams drives inside during Fridays home win over Sherwood. He finished with a team-high 24 points.

Nail-biting games are becoming part of the job description for the Pioneers, and they are ready for a promotion.

In its latest thriller, the Sandy boys basketball team bested Sherwood 60-53 on Friday. The two squads were very comparable from a talent standpoint, but Sandy’s senior leadership was the difference.

“Our seniors, especially Justin (Adams), Jacob (Groom) and Blake (Robison), have seen everything,” Sandy coach Jason Maki said. “They have seen every kind of defense, every kind of referee, every kind of crowd. They can draw strength from that experience.”

With the Pioneers trailing by four points late in the third quarter, Adams imposed his will on the Bowmen. He made a pair of highly contested shots in the paint and drew a foul on one of them. Adams swished his foul shot to give Sandy a one-point lead going into the fourth quarter.

Adams finished with 24 points, and he earned every one of them. Each time he got the ball down low, two or three Sherwood defenders were all over him. Adams was regularly hacked and sometimes it was called, sometimes it wasn’t.

Through it all, he produced.

“It’s tough not to get frustrated,” Adams said. “You just have to keep your composure in situations like that, knowing that they can’t stop you with just one player.”

In the fourth quarter, the Bowmen were even more relentless. They were determined to force someone other than Adams to beat them. That someone was Robison.

Going into the final period, Robison had only three points. He connected on three field goals, including a 3-pointer, in the first three minutes of the quarter to give the Pioneers some breathing room. When Sherwood had to foul in the final two minutes to prolong the game, Robison calmly stepped up to the line and sank all four of his free throws. He had 11 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 14 in the game.

“I don’t know if he realizes how big those shots really were,” Maki said. “He’s just out there playing.”

Sandy stayed undefeated in Northwest Oregon Conference play with the win to keep pace with Milwaukie. The Pioneers have now played four games decided by seven points or less, and they have won them all.

“Our kids our gaining confidence that we can win those games,” Maki said. “They are starting to believe, and it’s a neat thing to see.”

Sandy opened the week with a 55-41 road win over Rex Putnam.

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