Win at Baker earns Madras Tuesday appointment against Tillamook

by: Photo By Brian Liebenstein - Madras High senior Lucas Conway, white, looks to beat the Sherwood defense during the battle for the league's third seed, which Madras won.

Sports Editor
   A fast-paced tempo left Madras ahead early in Saturday's boys basketball state subtournament game at Baker City, but it took free throws in the final moments to seal the White Buffalos' 64-61 win and a return to the state tournament.
   Foul troubles left four Madras starters sitting on the bench at varied times in the second quarter. That helped Baker High make the game closer. Yet, Madras won the battle for one of eight spots opposite the state's district champions at Oregon's 3A boys basketball state tournament. Winning put Madras into the group of 16 at the state tourney for the 11th time in 12 seasons under head coach Evan Brown.
   Dominique Easterling's 23 points led Madras Saturday. He made 10 of his 11 attempts at baskets despite sitting out a few minutes. Helping hold Mitch Grove, Baker's 6-9 center, to 19 after Grove had 32 in the Bulldogs' next-to-last game of the regular season proved just as important.
   With 12 points by Kevin Hernandez and 10 more for Tim Kirsch anchoring the rest of the lineup, the Buffs beat Baker's attack. Grove's scoring plus 10 from Stephen Henry led the home team.
   Its 64-61 win was harder to come by than head coach Evan Brown said he had hoped after a first quarter in which pressure and fast pace put Madras ahead 18-9, after once leading 18-5. But, Madras did earn the March 8 win and a spot in this week's Tuesday-Saturday U.S. Bank-Les Schwab Tires Oregon School Activities Association event.
   Baker was the home team because it finished second in the Greater Oregon League. It stormed back to take a one-point lead in the third quarter after trailing but could not keep Madras from marching on to Corvallis.
   Tillamook, the Cowapa League champion, was Madras's opening opponent in the state tournament. That Tuesday game was scheduled for 1 p.m., after Pioneer deadlines.
   Its defense and scoring run let Madras High's boys get ahead of Baker, but they then encountered some foul trouble. That trouble left Baker shooting two fouls for close to six minutes of the eight-minute second quarter as the Buffs were quickly whistled for their 10th team foul.
   "They couldn't keep up with our foot speed early. When we got into the foul trouble was when they caught up," Brown said. He noted, however, that Madras attacked Baker well enough to get it's 6-9 center, Mitch Grove, whistled for a third foul later in the second quarter. That helped keep the Buffs ahead, 30-27, at halftime.
   Baker's switch to a zone defense and more deliberate offense created some challenges for Madras.
   "They got us standing around," said Brown.
   The slight let down let Madras slip behind by a point or two in the third quarter, but the Buffs rallied to victory.
   "We took a lot better care of the ball late in the game than we had in some of our other recent games. That and making some free throws down the stretch let us win," Brown said.
   There were just enough turnovers created by its defense which Madras converted into transitions to easy baskets for the Buffs to beat Baker.
   "We did a good job of free throw shooting down the stretch. We didn't always get the inbound pass to who would have been the first choice, but everyone did a good enough job of shooting for it not to matter," Brown said.
   Adding to the scoring by its trio in double figures for Madras were John Adams, with nine, plus Joey McConnell, with eight. Rounding out the scoring column for the Buffs in their Saturday win were seniors Lucas Conway and Guy Reynolds, with a single point each.
   Madras is going to need to be active if it expects to challenge for a trophy at the state tournament, which will only go to half of the 16 teams participating, said Brown.
   "In order to be successful at the high level were now at we need to be active on offense. Defensively we need to communicate more. Everyone needs to know who they should be on when the other team has the ball," said Brown.
   If the Buffs beat the fourth-ranked Tillamook Cheesemakers in the opening round they will be playing the winner of a game between Siuslaw and Newport at 11 a.m. March 13 at Oregon State. Should they have lost Tuesday, the Buffs are meeting the Newport-Siuslaw game loser at 11 a.m. on March 12. Depending on the results of those first two games the Buffs could be playing at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. or 5 p.m. Friday, or even be eliminated from the event.
   Though the bracket they are in does not get easier after the staunch test on the first day, it doesn't bother Brown.
   "We don't mind being the underdog. Someone might overlook us just enough to give us the opening we need," said Brown. He has led Madras to the straight in all but one of his dozen seasons at the helm.
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