Sunset roars back from 14 down before falling short in its tournament semifinal contest
by: JAIME VALDEZ, UP AND OVER — Sunset sophomore Tony Holton lofts a shot over Oregon City’s Sammy Schafer during his team’s 62-58 semifinal loss in the Class 6A state semifinals on Friday at McArthur Court in Eugene.

EUGENE - To say that things started badly for Sunset in its Friday semifinal against top-ranked Oregon City would be an understatement of humongous proportion.

The Apollos gave up three three-pointers in the game's first 3 minutes, 13 seconds, gave up a 13-5 lead to the Three Rivers League champions, and gave Pioneer star Sammy Schafer a dunk and a 38-24 lead with 6:01 left in the third quarter.

But Sunset didn't give up.

Not by a long shot.

The Apollos rallied from that 14-point deficit with a 14-6 run at the end of the third quarter and eventually closed within 59-58 with 25 seconds to go before the Pioneers pulled out a 62-58 win at the foul line in the game's final seconds. Oregon City, which went on to lose the championship game 63-56 to Grant on Saturday night, finished its year at 28-2.

'We got into them (defensively) in the second half and they didn't like that,' said Sunset senior Ryan Bennett, who helped guard Pioneer star guard Brad Tinsley most of the night. 'We did a pretty good job getting to the free throw line at the end and drawing contact. It was kind of interesting toward the end.'

'We've been in situations where we've been down before this year and … our chemistry is so strong, we all knew that we could come back and get back in the ballgame which we did,' said senior Garrett Sim, who led all scorers with 27 points and added eight rebounds.

'Our team all year long has been that resilient and that tough,' added Sunset coach Todd Sherwood. 'It's a great testament to the character of those individuals, all 12 of them and the assistant coaches - all of them. They knew they could do it.'

The Pioneers did their best to make it tough, though, with Kamal Smith hitting three three-pointers in the opening quarter as OC took a 20-13 lead after one period. The Apollos battled back within 22-18 when Sim scored on a drive with 5:41 left in the second quarter, but Oregon City closed the half on a 14-5 run to lead 36-23 at the break.

Things got worse for Sunset before they got better too. Sammy Schafer dunked off a Tinsley assist two minutes into the third quarter as the OC lead peaked at 38-24. But senior post Phil Campbell and Sim led Sunset back into the fray, with Campbell hitting three straight shots and scoring eight points in the final 4:50 of the period to close within 44-38.

Sunset kept the heat on in the fourth quarter too, and Oregon City's lack of success at the foul line - the Pioneers hit just four of their first 13 free throws in the quarter - opened the door to the Apollos' comeback hopes.

Senior Greg Shepard scored twice for the Apollos, and Sunset then handed the reins to Sim, a unanimous selection to the all-tournament first team. Sim, who averaged a tournament-best 25.7 points per game at state, scored on six of his team's next seven possessions, starting with a three-point play, then adding a three-pointer, two free throws, a coast-to-coast drive and four more foul shots, the final two of those bringing his team within 59-58 with 25 seconds remaining.

But the Pioneers, when they absolutely had to, finally made their free throws. Smith hit two straight with 23 seconds to go, and after Sim missed a 'three' from the left corner, Schafer hit one foul shot with four seconds left to make it 62-58.

Sim and the Apollos had one shot left, and Sim drove into the frontcourt and launched a long three-pointer while trying to draw contact with an Oregon City defender - but his shot was off the mark and the Pioneers escaped with the win.

'We knew it was turning our way and we knew they hadn't been in a game like that recently,' Sim said. 'We had a little bit of an advantage … but they did a good job hitting free throws down the stretch.'

'We've been in a lot of big games with Metro League teams and we just tried to play calm, just do what we do and not make things extra hard on ourselves,' Bennett said.

Sherwood, meanwhile, walked away impressed all over again with Sim, his Cal Berkeley-bound senior.

'He's tough. He's just a tough, tough kid,' Sherwood said. 'We really made some things happen that second half.'

Shepard added nine points and nine rebounds, Campbell had eight points and five rebounds, and Holton seven points and three rebounds. Schafer had 19 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks to pace Oregon City, Tinsley finished with 18 points and eight rebounds to offset eight turnovers, and Smith finished with 13 points.

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