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Sandy boys beat Benson, headed to Eugene

The Pioneers take the lead with little more than a minute on the clock


by: THE POST: PARKER LEE - Sandy center Justin Adams is carried off the court by students after Friday nights 50-42 playoff win over Benson.

At the beginning of the season, the Sandy boys’ basketball team set some goals, just as all teams do. The main goal the Pioneers set for themselves was a lofty one – make it to Eugene.

Sandy’s far-fetched dream came to fruition when it edged Benson, 50-42, on Friday night to punch its ticket to the OSAA 5A state quarterfinals Wednesday.

“This is huge. This is the day and the moment we have been waiting for,” Sandy post Justin Adams said. “We knew we could do it, and we came out and proved it.”

The Pioneers’ opening-round win resembled several of their regular season victories in that it was a defensive, back-and-forth struggle that came down to the final few minutes.

As the clocked dipped below the two-minute mark, Benson had a two-point lead and possession. The Techmen did all they could to milk the clock, but Sandy had been in so many close games earlier in the season and it didn’t panic. The battle-tested Pioneers remained composed and confident.

“I told them ‘this is what we do – we play in close games,’” Sandy coach Jason Maki said. “They didn’t play in as many close games as we did. We weren’t nervous and we weren’t scared of the moment.”

The Pioneers went into a fierce, physical trap defense, but they did it without fouling. With 1:30 left, Benson’s Jordan Ewell was double-teamed near the 3-point line. Under the intense pressure, Ewell dragged his pivot foot and was called for traveling.

On the ensuing inbounds pass, Adams could not find an open teammate, but he alertly called a timeout right as the official was about to blow his whistle for a five-second violation.

After the timeout, the Pioneers did get the ball in and advanced it down the floor. Sandy wing Karsten Short dribbled down to the right corner while all of his teammates cleared out to the left. Short then raced down the baseline toward the hoop and flipped in a layup to tie the game.

Benson quickly took it down the other end and fired off an urgent jumper. It bricked off the iron and into Adams’ hands. He was immediately fouled with 1:03 remaining. Adams missed his first free throw, but made his second to give Sandy the lead.

He finished with a game-high 20 points.

Benson again sprinted down the floor and again badly missed a deep jumper. This time, Sandy wing Jacob Groom corralled the rebound and drew the foul with 26 seconds on the clock and he was perfect on both attempts. Groom, who had 13 points, went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and 10-for-10 in the game.

Trailing by three points, the Techmen hurried to the other end and put up a potential tying 3-pointer with 12 seconds left. The ball appeared to be falling through the orange cylinder, but it instead circled the inside of the rim twice and jumped out. Short pulled in the rebound and got hacked immediately.

With :08 seconds left, Short needed to connect on one of his two free throws to ice the game. His first try was flat and rattled out. Short shook off the miss, calmly approached the line again, drained the second attempt and pointed at the jam-packed Sandy student section.

After one more Benson miss, Sandy wing Blake Robison grabbed the rebound. He was fouled with 2.6 seconds left, then was the recipient of a flagrant foul when Benson’s Franklin Norman shoved him to the ground in frustration. Robison made all four foul shots.

Sandy then inbounded to Adams who heaved the ball into the air in celebration as time expired. Before the ball could even return to earth, Adams disappeared into a sea of his teammates and Sandy fans.

“Sandy has been the ‘little brother’ in basketball for so long,” Sandy coach Jason Maki said. “This just proves they have worked so darn hard, and it is neat to see it pay off.”